Taxicabs in the District of Columbia will almost certainly begin using time and distance meters to calculate fares next month, after the D.C. Superior Court on Monday turned back an effort by several cab companies to delay the implementation of the meters.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has pushed for the switch to meters since October, praised the court’s ruling in a press release, saying that the new system would benefit taxicab customers throughout the city.

“We are heartened by the court’s validation of the city’s authority in this matter,” Fenty said in the release. “We take seriously the deadlines laid out in the taxicab regulations and intend to enforce them, while making reasonable adjustments to encourage full compliance so that District taxi riders can look forward to a reliable and transparent taxi system.”

Judge Brook Hedge’s ruling has prompted over 6,500 taxi drivers to threaten a strike, according to The Washington Post. Since Fenty proposed the changes in the fall, taxi-cab drivers have gone on strike several times, including a 24-hour strike on Halloween and a 12-hour strike on Feb. 4.

Some cab companies intend to abide by the ruling, however.

Roy Spooner, the general manager of the Yellow Cab Company, said his company “intends to comply with the district mandate by the enforceable date.”

But other companies remained defiant, saying that the mayor lacked the authority to require the switch to meters.

“The biggest issue at this juncture . is that the mayor promulgated [these] rules about the meter without the proper authority. That authority rested with the taxicab commission, and he delegated authority to the D.C. taxicab commissioner that he never had to grant,” said Jeffrey O’Toole, an attorney for the taxicab drivers.

Fenty has said that his authority to direct the commissioner, Leon Swain, to implement the meters comes from an amendment added by Sen. Carl Levin (D-M.I.) to the Home Rule Act requiring the transition from zones to meters unless the Mayor chose otherwise.

The Home Rule Act allows the District of Columbia to govern its own local affairs, even though it is not a state, nor part of a state.

Fenty’s regulations give taxicab drivers until May 1 to switch to time-and-distance meters similar to those used by taxicabs in New York City, and threatens drivers with a $1,000 fine for every time they are caught driving without a meter.

D.C. City Councilman Jim Graham, chair of the public works and environment committee, urged Fenty to extend the time for cab drivers, arguing that Cab drivers needed more time to locate and purchase the meters.

“After the court ruled in favor of the mayor’s authority to switch from zones to meters, Councilmember Graham believed it was a matter of fairness to give the taxi drivers enough time to install their meters. Many cab drivers did not purchase their meters because of the lawsuit. The meters cost between $300 and $500, and some cab drivers did not want to incur an unnecessary expense if the court ruled in their favor,” said Jason Yuckenberg, public information officer for Graham’s office.

According to Yuckenberg, Fenty has decided to extend the date for cabs to have the meters from May 1 to June 1. The month of May would then serve as a preparatory month, granting the cab drivers more time to obtain the meters without being fined for not having one.

“During that one-month period, there will be the possibility that if you ride in a cab to work, you might hail a cab with a meter, and on the way home you may hail a cab that is still using the zoning method, so you might have different prices,” Yuckenberg said. Taxicab drivers are still appealing the issue, and will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. today with the judge.

As for the taxi drivers, much is left unsettled.

“It has been successfully filed. Now we hope it’s successfully appealed,” O’Toole said.

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