Digital meters to allow Minneapolis taxis more fare flexibility

Managers of the largest fleet of taxis in the Twin Cities are celebrating approval by the City of Minneapolis to use digital meters. They believe this small change will help them better compete with ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft.

This affects Blue and White, Rainbow and ABC taxis. For them, it's finally out with the old and in with the new.

For two years, two meters have been running side-by-side on their taxi dashboards. The old mechanical one recognized by the City of Minneapolis Licensing Department and the new tablet, which is preferred by Blue and White General Manager Zach Williams.

“The old one is wired right into the odometer and has a seal that is put on by the meter shop,” said Williams. “We can't do those ourselves because then we could manipulate them. That seal was the consumer protection. With the new meters, only our office can manipulate anything

After pushing for Minneapolis to recognize the new digital taxicab meter, Williams drove inspectors around earlier this month for a long-awaited test and received email approval the next day.

Williams says finally being able to remove the old meters eliminates confusion and protects customers.

“You are giving a driver incentive to do wrong,” he said. “You are confusing the rider. That's why we are very excited. We are excited to get rid of the confusion.”

Plus with the new meters, Williams says they will more often be flexible with fees, dropping below the $2.75 per mile maximum set by city ordinance.

But there will not be surge pricing or dollar per mile pricing often used by ride shares.

“It gives us an ability to lower costs near to what they are doing,” he said. “They are giving rides for below cost. We are not going to do that, but we want to be competitive.”

Williams says part of that competition is having 21st century technology, something he says is long overdue.

“It’s hard to compete with the Uber and Lyfts of the world when you can't even use their same technology, so this is an opportunity for us right here,” he said.