D.C. taxi rider surcharge proposed

(Photo: John Hendel)

Hundreds of cab drivers parked their vehicles Monday to pack in to a council hearing on their future. Not only was the hearing room full, so too was an overflow room three floors below.

At issue is a bill that would impose a 50 cent per ride surcharge to help cab owners pay for a list of demands, including credit card readers and GPS systems in all cabs, a five year limit on the age of vehicles and mandatory training for drivers.

"We have a family to support. We have children to educate just like everyone else. We live in a very expensive city,” says A. Kebede, a cab driver.

For observers in the hearing and riders on the street, getting credit card machines in cabs is a priority.

"The ability to use your credit card is a modern amenity that is coming,” says rider Shawn Sprague. “You got to adapt to it."

The head of the taxicab commission, who sat in the hot seat for two hours Monday, said the bill is to satisfy the public.

"They can use credit cards, they see where they're going. They can trust the driver. They can get help when they need it,” says Ron Linton. “The cars are cabs are clean. The cabs smell good. The drivers know their way around."