CHRISTINA MCGRATH/THE HOYA An upgrade to DC’s taxi meters to include credit card and GPS capabilities has been halted by a contract dispute.
An upgrade to DC’s taxi meters to include credit card and GPS capabilities has been halted by a contract dispute.

The installation of credit card meters with GPS tracking devices in all District taxis, a centerpiece of Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 election campaign, has been postponed indefinitely following a contract dispute levied by bidders that failed to win the Taxicab Smart Meter System contract.

The $35 million contract, which was granted exclusively toVeriFone Systems, Inc. in July, was suspended after Monica Parchment, a judge on D.C.’s Contract Appeals Board, ruled that protests by a pair of losing bidders must be resolved before  installation of the “smart meters” in all of the District’s 6,500 taxis can be continued. Only a few dozen meters were installed before the protesting bidders, Creative Mobile Technologies, LLC of New York, and RideCharge, Inc. of Alexandria, Va., forced installation to grind to a halt.

This decision came after Gray celebrated the installation of the first meter in August. The modernization of D.C. cabs was one of the mayor’s most highly publicized goals throughout his campaign, according toDoxie McCoy, the mayor’s senior communications manager.

“When [Gray] came into office in January 2011, this was one of his main priorities. It continues to be a major focus despite the recent setbacks, and we are confident that things will be settled as soon as possible,” McCoy said.

However, fulfilling the initial goal of outfitting all city cabs with the new meters in time for the presidential inauguration in January will prove difficult.
“We’re disappointed with the conflict, though we are very hopeful that it can be resolved quickly. That said, if the judge orders that the contract needs to be resolicited, that goal will no longer be reachable,” said Neville Waters (MSB ’91), public affairs specialist for the D.C. Taxi Commission. “The commission really was hoping for all of the cabs to be ready with this new technology by the time of the inauguration, particularly because of the added tourism we will see.”

Both the DCTC, including its commissioner, Ron Linton, and the mayor’s office are hopeful the deadline can still be met.

“These meters will be a disincentive for crime, as drivers will not have to carry as much cash and will therefore be lesser targets for robbery and assault,” McCoy said.

The GPS-equipped meters will also include a safety button that drivers can push to notify medical or police personnel of an emergency.

“We are really counting on [having] this contract pull through because we have a distinct vision to incorporate technology into public vehicles for hire, whether for hailing, booking or paying for cabs,” Waters said.

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