D.C. Council passes legislation to regulate cab-for-hire services

On first read, the D.C. Council has passed major legislation to regulate the city’s fast-growing, car-for-hire industry. Council members are trying to balance the popularity of sedan services like Uber with the existing taxicab industry.

New regulations of sedan-class vehicles passed unanimously through the D.C. Council’s preliminary review of the bill.

“Consumers need to know that they’re riding in vehicles that are insured, that their drivers are licensed and that they have minimal consumer protections to know what the fare will be and to get a receipt at the end,” says Mary Cheh, (D) D.C. Council.

If approved during a final vote next month, these new rules would require increasingly popular vehicle-for-hire services like Uber to follow some of the same rules as taxicabs.

“We’re anticipating competition,” says Cheh.

But sedan fares themselves will continue to go unregulated. This summer, Uber customers fought back against a proposed minimum fare of $15 meant to protect D.C.’s taxicab industry. Now some worry taxi drivers are possibly being penalized for following the rules.

“And also you don’t want to have another variation of the industry to have the upper hand which can be detrimental to an industry that’s been here for a very long time,” says Vincent Orange, (D) D.C. Council.

Others argue taxis need to evolve and compete.

“I don’t believe in protecting one industry at the expense of others, especially when it dampens competition and when it is inconsistent with the wishes of the riding public,” says David Catania, (I) D.C. Council.

Cheh says cab drivers should be happy because her proposal creates a so-called “super license” allowing them to operate taxis, sedans and limos.

“I have been told there are taxi drivers who maybe want to drive their cab during the day but on weekends want to sign up with one of these dispatch services to make extra money. Now they’ll be able to do that,” says Cheh.

The regulations also require sedan drivers to serve all wards and all neighborhoods of the District. They can’t pick up random passengers at hotels or off the street like taxis. They must connect through a phone call or mobile app. Also, their companies must take steps to be handicapped accessible.