Courtesy Van Service Aims to Help Underserved D.C. Neighborhoods

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    The D.C. Taxicab Commission (DCTC) has announced a plan to create a courtesy van service for those who live in areas where hailing cabs has proved difficult.

    The seven-passenger vans would provide transportation within specific boundaries, dropping riders off at Metro stations or taxi stands for transport elsewhere. Riders would be able to book rides via street hails, text messaging and phone calls.

    The commission says the vans will typically serve those whose travel needs primarily consist of doctors' appointments and other errands for a fixed price.

    There is also some discussion about allowing pick-ups and drop-offs outside the designated areas, said DCTC spokesman Neville Waters.

    The difficulty of finding a cab in some D.C. neighborhoods has led to a rise in rogue operators, Waters said. The commission will not operate the service itself, but private operators would be offered incentives to participate and fulfill the needs of the neighborhood legally.

    While the neighborhoods the vans will service haven't yet been determined, the commission says it has met with community groups in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8. 

    Waters said the idea for the service did not come from drivers refusing to take riders to certain neighborhoods, adding that refusal to haul is "separate and apart from the problem the neighborhood courtesy van concept seeks to address."

    However, refusal to haul is a serious violation; drivers could face a $500 fine and other penalties if found to be in violation.

    The commission hopes to start the service in mid-2015.