WASHINGTON, DC –Now in the last year of a three-year pilot period, rollDC, the Transportation Planning Board’s wheelchair accessible taxicab service, is an important piece of the District of Columbia’s transportation network as evidenced by increasing demand for the service and high customer satisfaction marks.
Since the service began in 2010, rollDC has experienced an eight-fold increase in trips—6,000 trips overall. According to a customer survey, 81% of respondents said their most recent rollDC trip was very good or excellent. Over 90% of first time users said they planned to use the service again. While the majority of users gave the service good overall reviews, some respondents said additional wheelchair accessible taxicabs were needed, and that wait times were longer than anticipated during peak hours. None of the taxis operating in District were equipped with ramps to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices before rollDC.
“The TPB played a crucial role in bringing wheelchair accessible taxis to the nation’s capital by convening the appropriate stakeholders and coordinating the many elements that have made the service a success,” said College Park City Council Member Patrick Wojahn, who serves as the Chair of the TPB Access for All (AFA) Advisory Committee. “The TPB’s efforts demonstrate the value of coordination in addressing persistent transportation challenges.”
The TPB used a $1.3 million Federal Transit Administration grant to purchase 20 ramp-equipped minivans to be operated as taxicabs by Yellow Cab Company of DC and Royal Cab. The grant included $200,000 in matching funds from D.C. and contributions from the two cab companies. The TPB also used the grant to develop operating guidelines, a driver training program, and marketing materials for the service.
The rollDC pilot period will end in December 2012. D.C. officials are considering new funding commitments and regulatory provisions for companies to provide wheelchair-accessible service in order to maintain and potentially expand rollDC.
D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation, said, “Taxicabs serve as ambassadors to the District’s visitors, tourists, and residents, alike. Part of improving taxicab service is increasing accessibility to all who wish to use them. There is no doubt that rollDC must continue and I am committed to find a way to do that before the pilot ends this year”.
“rollDC provides an essential service by making transportation more accessible for DC residents and visitors who use wheelchairs,” said D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who has previously served as Chair of the TPB and had helped secure the federal funds and implement the pilot. “The growing demand for rollDC highlights the importance of sustaining the service beyond the conclusion of the pilot project.”
rollDC provides area residents and visitors with disabilities another transportation option in addition to MetroAccess, the paratransit service operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. While rollDC users pay regular-priced taxi fares, which are often more expensive than MetroAccess fares, customers can avoid the lengthy pre-registration process and one-day advance booking required by MetroAccess. rollDC also provides direct service, rather than a shared ride service, so customers can arrive at their destinations faster. According to the survey, the top two categories of rollDC trips were health-related and entertainment-related, which shows customers are using the service for all aspects of their lives.
“rollDC provides me with the flexibility to travel as my needs dictate,” said D.C. resident and disability rights activist Bobby Coward. “The service is a critical step forward in enhancing travel independence for DC residents who use wheelchairs, and should be expanded.”
Customers can call ahead to book a trip via phone or the internet: Yellow Cab of DC (202) 544-1213; www.dcyellowcab.com ); Royal Cab (202-398-0512; www.dctaxionline.com ).