DC smart meter program delayed

It could be months before DC sees a smart meter program for cabs.

The delay is a result of a dispute between the city and two companies who provide the product.

The device allows passengers to pay their fare via credit cards, view news and weather reports and quickly contact police, if necessary.

Ron Linton, the chairman of the Taxicab Commission, lamented over the delay Tuesday.

"Our program has taken a hit...," he said.

Weeks ago, Mayor Vincent Gray used a news conference to show off the smart meters. Coming from the Verifone Company, the meters would have been installed in 6,500 DC cabs.

However, two Verifone competitors say the selection process was unfair and filed protests with DC's Contact Appeals Board. While the city ignored the protests, Friday, Contract Appeals Bar Chairman Monica C. Parchment declared," ...we overrule the DC Chief Procurement Officers determination to proceed....before the protest is decided on its merits."

A. Scott Bolden, an attorney for competitor Creative Mobile Technologies, said, "It simply makes sense. If you install thousands of meters before a protest is decided and then if the decision has to be corrected, it's pretty hard to undo what's been done."

While the city wanted all taxis outfitted with the new technology by Inauguration Day, that likely won't happen, even if the board rules in the city's favor.

"We're losing valuable time to modernize the the taxi service and improve the safety and putting a good face for the District of Columbia," Linton said.

Some taxi drivers are still on the fence about new machines.

Driver Innocent Ahaghotu showed an unpaid receipt he has from a fare whose card was declined at the end of a long trip.

"So what am I going to do? I'm going to throw it away. I lost $110," Ahaghotu said.

As for the traveling public, passenger Jeremy Harrell countered, "It's a lot easier. You don't have to deal with cash, and a lot of other cities and even Virginia cabs have those."