The Bowser Administration, through the Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DFHV), has launched a service to provide affordable, on-demand transportation for essential healthcare workers at Howard University Hospital and United Medical Center during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. DFHV, Via and operator Transco have partnered to transform and repurpose DC Neighborhood Connect, formerly DC Microtransit, to provide exclusive rides to those workers to and from their work and homes after 9 pm.
Typically, DC Neighborhood Connect services Wards 4,5, and 8, but to ensure widespread transportation access for these essential workers, the service zone has been expanded to cover all the District, as well as Prince George’s County and part of Montgomery County, MD.
“We fully support Mayor Bowser’s actions to provide safety guidelines that enable critical transportation for those dedicated individuals doing essential work,” said DFHV Director David Do. “We are excited about the expansion of this transportation option with Via to serve those who are providing essential medical services and care to District residents.”
Health care workers pay a $3 flat-rate fare for rides between 9 pm and 1 am, traditionally a timeframe with limited public transit options that have been reduced further during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Faced with the current crisis, cities and public transit authorities are actively seeking flexible mobility solutions to help critical employees get to work safely,” said Via CEO and co-founder Daniel Ramot. “Our partnership with DFHV to repurpose the DC Neighborhood Connect service demonstrates how technology-enabled solutions can swiftly step in to utilize existing infrastructure to provide safe, reliable, and efficient mobility services for essential workers, while complementing existing public transit systems.”
Health care workers enter a ride code provided by their hospital using the DC Neighborhood Connect app (iOS and Android) from their smartphone. They can hail one of 11 high-capacity vehicles. Via’s advanced algorithms will enable multiple riders to seamlessly share a vehicle, with a maximum of three health care workers per vehicle to allow for proper social distancing. Via’s technology directs passengers to a nearby corner for pickup, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, fixed routes or schedules.
The Mayor’s stay home order provides that drivers of ride-sharing vehicles engaged in essential travel must have certain disinfecting protocols and may not have more than two other persons in their vehicle at any time. Mayor’s Order 2020-063 further clarifies that: (1) face masks are required for individuals using taxis, ride shares, private transportation providers; and (2) ride-sharing companies and other private transportation providers must require employees and independent contractors to wear gloves and cloth or surgical masks and instruct them on safe use.
For updates on the District’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.dc.gov.
Via is re-engineering public transit, from a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules to a fully dynamic, on-demand network. Via’s mobile app connects multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to seamlessly share a premium vehicle. First launched in New York City in September 2013, the Via platform operates in the United States and in Europe through its joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans, ViaVan. Via’s technology is also deployed worldwide through dozens of partner projects with public transportation agencies, private transit operators, taxi fleets, private companies, universities and health care organizations, seamlessly integrating with public transit infrastructure to power cutting-edge on-demand mobility and to utilize the existing transit infrastructure during times of emergency for the flexible movement of personnel and goods. For more information, visit platform.ridewithvia.com.
With 16 taxi companies, Taxi Transportation Service (Transco) is one of the largest operators in the for-hire ride industry in the Washington metropolitan area and has served the District since 1951. Visit dctaxionline.com.