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D.C. warns cabbies about meter installations

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The D.C. Taxicab Commission is warning cab drivers that they will be on the hook to pay for the installation of smart meters if the city can't find funding by Wednesday for the project.

Although the city had a $1.3 million deal in place for the District to pay to install the new meters in 6,500 cabs, Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry moved last week to delay the deal.

But with the first installations set to begin Wednesday, regulators told drivers on Monday that if Barry's opposition continues or if the city can't come up with the cash elsewhere, drivers will pay up to $500 each for the meters.

"The mayor has instructed the D.C. Taxicab Commission to work to identify an alternate mechanism that will allow the District to pay the driver's installation cost," the commission said in a statement. "However, drivers should be aware that if such a mechanism is not identified by this Wednesday, Aug. 22, unfortunately drivers will be required to bear the cost of installation."

Without naming Barry, the commission also pressed the former mayor to yank his disapproval resolution.

"We remain hopeful that the D.C. Council member blocking the District's ability to cover the installation cost will withdraw his opposition," the commission said.

The city initially planned for the drivers to pay for the installations, but a backlash prompted District leaders to regroup and agree to fund the changes.

Passengers will ultimately foot the bill for the meters themselves, which include GPS technology and credit card machines, with a surcharge of 50 cents a ride. The city is paying the $35 million tab up front.

A spokeswoman for Barry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Staff Writer Liz Essley contributed to this report.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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