WASHINGTON — Over the last couple weeks, the "Taxi-To-Rail" initiative has garnered a lot of attention, and made headlines. The pilot program subsidizes taxi rides, up to $10, to bring residents of Wards 7 and 8 to Metro stations and other amenities like grocery stores.
WUSA9 wanted to learn more about the program, so we tracked down the main players, to talk about the possible merits, and concerns.
The program gained attention earlier this month, when Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the initiative was being expanded to bring passengers not only to Metro stations, but also grocery stores, libraries, pools and recreation centers.
"Building a more equitable and affordable transportation system is essential to providing all residents with pathways to the middle class," Bowser said.
David Do -- Director of Department of For-Hire Vehicles:
The pilot is being run out of the Department Of For-Hire Vehicles, and currently the budget is set at $65,000. David Do, the department's director, said the idea will help low-income riders.
“This is an incredibly exciting program,” he said.
According to Do, the initiative will help fill the transportation gap for people in wards 7 and 8, and will better connect them to amenities like grocery stores. Access to grocery stories has long been a problem for residents east of the river.
"We want to make sure that the residents have access to the freshest and best foods possible,” he said.
These taxis can be ordered online at www.taxi2rail.com, by app at EZRidr, or by phone, by calling 202-727-3827. Do said it was crucial that these rides were easy to call, and accessible to everyone.
“We’re connecting our taxis who are in need," he said. "With our residents who are in need.”
Roy Spooner, Co-Manager at Yellow Cab Company of DC:
The policy has been welcome news for local taxi companies in the district, who have seen a decrease in ridership, ever since the arrival of Uber and Lyft. The city selected UVC and Yellow Cab Company of DC as the companies to do these pick-ups.
Roy Spooner, the Co-Manager of Yellow Cab Company of DC, said word is catching on. Currently the company is seeing approximately 15 subsidized rides per day.
"From looking at the list of people who are using the service every day," he said. "We know they’re residents... It was a matter of getting the word out. Now the word is out.”
Mary Cheh, DC Council member, Chair of Transportation Committee
The pilot hasn’t been without criticism. Some like DC Council member Mary Cheh have called the program a 'giveaway.'
"It seems to me like an ill-designed program," she said.
Cheh's top concern was that the program lacks an income or residency requirement. Anybody can receive the subsidized ride, regardless of their economic situation.
"It seems to me," she said. "(like) a cost-benefit - like what are you getting out of it. Given how ever much it’s going to cost, how better we may use that money.”
Spooner said that so far they've not seen these types of abuse. He said most of the rides have been by low-income residents of Wards 7 and 8.
“That 10 dollars," he said. "That they’re going to save back and forth, that’s extra food on the table... That savings means a lot.”
Metro Stations Involved in Pilot:
There are currently 10 stations that residents and visitors of Wards 7 and 8 can use visit using these subsidized taxi rides:
- Congress Heights
- Benning Road
- Minnesota Avenue
- Southern Avenue
- Capitol Heights
- Naylor Road
- Potomac Avenue
- Navy Yard