All District taxis must be able to accept credit cards by March 31, according to planned regulations from a city agency. Earlier plans for taking credit cards were on hold for the indefinite future due to a botched contract.
The DC Taxicab Commission is set to approve emergency regulations at its Jan. 24 meeting that will require cabs to either install credit card swipers or sign up with a digital dispatch service, like UberTAXI or MyTaxi, which accept riders' credit cards via smartphone.
Last year the city rolled out a plan to have all city cabs install "smart meters" that would take credit cards, display advertisements and have "panic" buttons for riders and drivers. But the plan stalled after a court sustained a protest saying that the city had botched the meter contract.
"The situation that exists today does no longer justify acquiring a system as we proposed a year ago," said Commission Chairman Ron Linton. "The playing field has changed. The technology has exceeded regulatory catch-up. There's a better way to do it, and we're moving on a better way."
But the city will still seek bids for devices that will feature the advertisements, panic buttons and GPS devices, among other features -- but without the credit card machine. Those new devices should be in cabs by July, the commission said, and the advertisements should cover most of the cost for the cab drivers, Linton said.
The changes are all part of the city's push to modernize its cab fleet. Cabs are on track to have new, uniform dome lights by the end of March, the commission projects. And an agency panel is still deciding what color cabbies will be required to paint their cabs.
Cabs displaying some of the color options, earlier on display at the Verizon Center, will be shown at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center starting Feb. 1, for the Washington Auto Show. The Secret Service shut down an earlier plan to have the mock-up cabs in front of Union Station for the inauguration, commission spokesman Neville Waters said.