So-called “surge pricing” is a concept that many D.C. taxi passengers know all too well. Anyone who has hailed an Uber cab during a high-traffic night can tell you about the rates that result when demand and availability determine price. A new proposal before the D.C. Taxicab Commission would allow non-Uber cabs to charge similar rates, and the rules could be up for discussion by regulators as soon as Wednesday.
Currently, D.C. cabs are bound by rules that keep fares tied to meters, but the new rules would give drivers flexibility on pricing when riders book online and via smartphone apps, WAMU reports. Don’t worry about cabs hailed on the street charging surge fares, though. That would still be off-limits.
“We are going to have a metered cab that is deregulated when it gets certain kinds of rides, and whenever it gets an electronic call for service the meter is not going to be employed to determine the cost of that ride,” Ron Linton, the chairman of the D.C. Taxi Commission, told WAMU.
Linton wants to to see “everybody able to compete with one another.” Tech companies such as Hailo, MyTaxi and Taxi Magic can already charge fares that are not entirely determined by meters, thanks to the simple fact they act as intermediaries between passengers and drivers. Linton’s deregulation proposal would allow cab drivers to adopt similar pricing schemes, but it could also ratchet up pressure to innovate.
That pressure may rub some drivers the wrong way. However, many of those drivers have already offered resistance to Uber, Lyft and other services entering the market. Pricing transparency could become a concern as well, though Linton indicated that estimated costs would need to be made available when someone books a ride.
Expect to see the proposal followed by a public comment period after it is formally introduced. With 7,000 metered cabs on D.C.’s streets, the rules are about to provoke responses.
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