One of the biggest gripes about D.C.'s taxicabs is that so few of them accept credit cards, but that may change starting today.
The D.C. Council passed regulations last spring requiring all cabs to have credit card machines, but the changeover has since been mired in red tape. The D.C. government is still trying to settle a dispute among contractors who bid on the $35 million contract to install new credit card readers in the city's cabs.
A new myTaxi smartphone app launching in D.C. allows customers to order a ride on a smartphone — much like the smartphone-based Uber service, which has caused some consternation among the city's cab drivers. myTaxi's GPS will locate the nearest taxi and send the driver a notification on his smartphone, and the driver has five seconds to accept. Payment is made at the end of the trip using the passenger's previously approved credit card.
"We support Visa and Mastercard, or if you are with PayPal you can also store your PayPal account," says myTaxi spokeswoman Lina Wuller. She notes that the GPS feature of that app means that a person doesn't need to have an exact address to order a taxi — which is the case with Uber.
Passengers can begin downloading the app today, but it's still unclear how many taxis are actually participating. Wuller declines to disclose how many taxi drivers have signed up, but she does introduce one of them, taxi driver Masood Medgalchi.
Medgalchi is also active in the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association, which opposes the Taxicab Commission's proposed reforms, including the plan to install the credit card machines.
"We were trying to be proactive about what the government of the District wanted us to do without having the government impose on us," he says.
Medgalchi's group calls the credit card system the district is attempting to push into taxis "antiquated." It's also on hold until the District clears up a dispute over what company should install the card readers.