Van service may help supplement cabs in certain D.C. neighborhoods

With cabs not picking up passengers in some neighborhoods, the D.C. Taxicab Commission is looking for alternative solutions. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s pretty easy to hail a cab near the Verizon Center. But residents in some D.C. neighborhoods say getting a ride isn’t that easy.

“If you get a cab out here, it’s Christmas,” says Brian Simms of Congress Heights. He says few cabs come through the area, and many don’t respond to street hails.

“They don’t pick us up,” says Ramona Pugh of Congress Height. She says she had been turned down or passed by by cabs on several occasions. “I don’t know why this area but it is sad. I guess they might think they’re gonna get robbed.”

With complaints continuing to come into the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission, Chairman Ron Linton says they are looking at other options for people who need rides east of the Potomac River, in Wards 7 and 8. Neighborhoods in Wards 4, 5 and 6 also don’t see many cabs.

“We don’t have the authority to mandate where service has to go, but we certainly have mechanisms to induce it,” Linton says.

The commission is considering the creation of a courtesy van service. A van operator would have to essentially become a cab driver, but will get help from the city in setting up a service that covers underserved neighborhoods.

The van would be owned by the drivers and be able to take up to seven people, including residents in wheelchairs. Linton says rides would fall under a flat rate and cost around $5.

Once boundaries are established, the vans would only be allowed to serve within those boundaries.

“If people had to have a ride that went beyond that service area they would be dropped off at the Metro, at a bus stop or a taxi stand,” Linton said.

His hope is locals will step up to serve their neighborhoods and make a living doing it.

Right now the commission is studying the idea, and must consider the demand for the vans in order to decide how many licenses would be handed out in each area.

Linton would like to see the program running in the summer of 2015.

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