City Desk

D.C. Cabs Could Get Surge Pricing

One of the key differences between D.C. taxicabs and their app-based competitors, like Uber, is that the government strictly regulates uniform prices for all cabs, while non-taxis are allowed to have their prices respond to market demands, with prices fluctuating at any given moment.

But now, under a new proposal first reported on by WAMU, the D.C. Taxicab Commission is considering allowing cabs to charge prices that aren't based on traditional meters. This would potentially allow cabs to engage in the practice known as surge pricing, best known from Uber's arrangement that hikes prices when the demand for rides exceeds the supply.

Commission Chair Ron Linton told WAMU that the deregulation of cab fares would only apply to cabs that are booked online or via an app, or cab rides that most directly compete with services like Uber and Lyft. The proposal wouldn't apply to rides hailed on the side of the street. (It is illegal for Uber sedans, for instance, to pick up a passenger on the side of the street.)

Five companies—most of which are start-up tech companies and do not actually have their own fleet of cabs—would be approved to partner with taxi drivers to charge non-metered fares based on time and distance, if this proposal is passed. They are Hailo, MyTaxi, Royal1 powered by Taxi Radar, Taxi Magic, and Yellow Cab.

"The intent of the proposal would be to level the competitive marketplace between transportation services that are summoned by electronic means," commission spokesman Neville Waters tells City Desk.

Waters says more information about this change will be revealed when the proposals are introduced at the upcoming commission meeting Wednesday. The regulation change would still have to go through a public comment period before it's approved or rejected.

This week's meeting agenda can be found here.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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