Business

DC taxis to use ride-hailing app, much like Uber

WASHINGTON — All registered taxis in the nation’s capital will be required to use an app allowing customers to order rides through their cellphones in what the D.C. Taxicab Commission calls the first such requirement in the country.

The commission unanimously approved a measure Wednesday requiring the 7,000 cabs in the district to be able to be hailed through the Universal DC TaxiApp. As with other ride-hailing companies such as Uber, customers will be able to pre-load credit-card information for easier payment, though they’ll still be able to pay in person with cards or cash.

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‘‘This is an attempt to level the playing field,’’ commission spokesman Neville Waters said Thursday. ‘‘It’s trying to respond to customer concerns and the evolving tastes out there.’’

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday.

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Waters said the commission believes Washington will be the first city in the nation requiring all its taxi drivers to use a ride-hailing app. In other cities, companies have launched apps for taxis, but Waters said use hasn’t been required, limiting success.

Requiring all of Washington’s taxi drivers to use an app ensures a ‘‘massive inventory’’ for customers, he said.

‘‘It doesn’t really do anybody any good when you only have 10 vehicles and they’re all being occupied,’’ Waters said.

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Taxis in the district have struggled to compete with ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, with taxi drivers arguing that the newer car services have an unfair advantage because they don’t have to follow the same rules and regulations and can afford cheaper prices.

Testing on the new taxi app is scheduled to begin in March, and the commission hopes to have it fully launched and operational by the summer.

The app will be developed by the commission, and managed and marketed by an industry co-op, which will set rates.

Taxis will still accept customers hailing them from the street.

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