It’s been an excruciatingly slow dance, but it appears efforts to bring credit card payment machines/swipe pads to taxis in the DC area are in the final stretch.
Many recall the long and drawn out efforts it took for this to happen, including at least one revision to the proposal to install the gadgets in every cab in D.C.
It looks as though that will finally be completed by this summer. Some are saying it’s long overdue while others still have their doubts.
I thought originally by last November we would have had credit card machines in every taxicab. The big disappointment was losing the contract we had,
said a spokesperson for the city. Remember, too, this has also landed in front of a judge recently, which further delayed the efforts. Once the District’s Contract Appeals Board overruled a contract awarded to Verifone Systems to install the credit card machines, everyone realized there would be another months-long delay. It’s not been easy and ultimately, it’s going to result in customers coughing up more money via their credit cards or debit cards. Cabbies were concerned about the costs associated with installing the machines and then updating the payment technology over time. Because technology improves on a daily basis, there’s no denying the costs associated with staying current. It makes sense that the cabbies shouldn’t be forced to shoulder those costs. As a result, the latest proposal has protective mechanisms in place that protect them by increasing customers’ fares by fifty cents to cover the costs associated with installing and maintaining credit card payment technology.
That means the base price will increase from $3.00 to $3.25 with the driver keeping that extra quarter. Another per ride surcharge that had been proposed was decreased from $.50 to $.25. That fee will be collected and kept by the District. From there, cab drivers will be allowed to charge an extra dollar per ride if more than one passenger climbs into the cab. Estimates show that close to 20 percent of all rides currently involve more than one passenger. After that, the numbers don’t matter. For instance, the cab driver can charge the extra dollar if it’s two, four or ten additional passengers, but that’s all he can get. There are nine credit card processing vendors who have contracted with DC and the drivers will be able to select the one they prefer.
This has been a long time coming and consumers have, for years, voiced their support for the technology, even as some cab drivers have resisted those efforts. There is a frustration factor to be considered and it’s up to the cabbie to ensure the transactions complete properly or else he’s the one who loses the fare. Then there are the logistics to consider, one cab driver, Solomon Nessibu explained,
Because of the fee, the credit card company charges you and you have to pay for the machine, pay for repair, extra receipt. It’s cost-related. Other than that it’s no problem.
While it looks as though it’s smooth sailing moving forward, there’s still one more hurdle that must be crossed. If the taxicab commission’s new proposal clears the final regulatory hurdles, DC leaders believe every cab will be outfitted with the credit card machines by early summer.
Disputes and Contractors
As mentioned, it’s been a very long and drawn out process. The Council voted more than a year ago to outfit cabs with the machines; however, it’s been a series of problems ever since, including one that continues to this day. There was a dispute between contractors who were hoping to get the contract to outfit the cars. It was a $35 million contract, so there was much at stake. Then, and not many were surprised, the technology complicated matters further. Because of our smartphones’ capabilities, a new app was launched. Many of the cab drivers are unsure about the accuracy of the apps and the lack of procedures in case of payment delays. Ideally, the app would send the payment directly to the cab driver’s own smartphone. He then has just five seconds to accept the payment and the transaction is reconciled once the cab ride has been completed. The credit cards are approved beforehand.
Since then, one of the app’s creators stated,
We support Visa and Mastercard, or if you are with PayPal you can also store your PayPal account.
Because phones are now equipped with GPS capabilities, there is no longer the need for an exact address since the GPS will put the cab driver within feet of where the call originated from. Not all cab drivers are allowing the app and the company refuses to provide that information.
Support for the Changes
One cab driver did say he supported the app, though not the reforms set forth by the Taxicab Commission – and that includes the installation of the credit card machines as a whole.
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. These are all holding the progress up to this day. The District has a lot to work out, but says it’s moving forward nonetheless and says it anticipates no delays or date changes for installations.
Residents and cab drivers alike can expect some growing pains, but with so many of us no longer even carrying cash, this could be a fine solution for all involved. It’s going to be a huge transition, but with fewer worries now about the cab drivers having to shoulder the costs of maintaining the latest technology and hardware, it should pave the way for a more technologically driven ride through the nation’s capital.
So what are your thoughts? Do you like the idea of a swipe machine being installed in cabs? Since they’ll be installed in the headrests of the front seats, they will be at eye level. How do you feel about seeing advertisements playing through as you ride through DC? Share your thoughts with us.