D.C. taxi drivers, struggling to hang on in an industry in decline, are getting a boost from the city in the form of subsidized fares.
They are ferrying foster children to school, taking cancer patients to treatment and helping veterans get to job interviews. The trips are subsidized by city programs designed to provide access to transportation for residents who are low-income and have special needs. The additional fares are a welcome source of income for cabbies, whose livelihoods have taken a hit with the rise of ride-hail services such as Uber and Lyft.
“Without these fares I would probably be out of business,” said David Turner, who has been driving a cab in D.C. for 15 years. “There is hardly any more flagging of cabs like there used to be. You don’t even see that anymore because everybody is going to the app now.”
In what some say is a first in the world, D.C.’s latest venture gives taxi drivers new business and simultaneously cuts its own costs.
As a program analyst for the city administrator’s office in the District of Columbia, Alexandra Caceres works with many agencies and often travels across the congested city for meetings. Every time she does, she has to reserve one of the two vehicles owned by her agency or, if those are being used, reserve a car from the city’s shared fleet. In either case, she has to schedule how long she’ll need the car, pick it up, drive to her destination and face the frustrating search for an elusive parking spot.
Well, that’s how she used to do it.
In June, D.C. launched a new transportation program that makes it much easier for city employees to get around for work. Now, Caceres uses a smartphone app to contact a taxi participating in the city’s “Vehicles on Demand” pilot. Within five to 10 minutes usually, a driver picks her up, checks her employee ID and takes her to her destination.
“It cuts the transportation time almost in half,” she says. “It’s quicker and easier all around.”
WASHINGTON — Thousands of D.C. residents who have trouble getting around have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: After public protests, the District is reversing cuts to a discounted taxicab program for paratransit riders.
Beginning Dec. 1, the Transport DC program will again provide rides for any purpose for the first 15 days of each month. The rest of the month, the $5 cab rides will remain limited to work-related and medical trips.
After a public outcry, the Bowser administration has reversed cuts to a popular, on-demand taxicab service for people with disabilities and senior citizens.
Citing a lack of funding, the District scaled back the Transport DC program on Oct. 3 for the second time in 15 months, restricting customers to trips to only jobs and medical appointments. Even worse, the cutback came without warning, stranding people who had taken the subsidized $5 cab ride to an appointment that very morning.
But as of Dec. 1, Transport DC will return to providing trips to any destination during the first 15 days of each month. Only trips to employment or medical services will be allowed during the remainder of each month through September 2018.
When it comes to developing innovative transportation strategies and providing customers more convenient, comfortable and safe access to rides, the D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles regards itself as a global leader.
To that end, the department’s aggressive strategy over the past two years has aimed to be a model for forward-thinking governments adopting plans to treat transportation as a service.
“We are a disruptor of the status quo,” said DFHV Director Ernest Chrappah. “I know that sounds strange coming from someone who works for a government agency that is a regulator. Well, welcome to a new day. The Department of For-Hire Vehicles has moved on well beyond the image of the D.C. Taxi Commission. DFHV is a nimble, enabler of change, that is creating new economic opportunities.”