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Hospital Workers Catch a Ride in DC

DC Neighborhood Connect Vehicle. Credit_Via.png

We are living in some crazy times. Before the Covid-19 Pandemic, along with other TDM Outreach Coordinators, I was promoting ride-sharing through incentives and marketing to help reduce congestion on our clogged roads. We encouraged drivers to consider ridesharing (Carpools, Vanpools, Buses, etc.) over driving alone because it can save drivers’ time and money as well as help make their daily commute a little more enjoyable….or less stressful.

Then Coronavirus hit the DC region, as well as the entire country, and the message became quite a bit different. With the safe distancing precautions in place, we couldn’t promote ride-sharing anymore. So the focus has been on telework and many companies are pursuing telework out of necessity.

From a transportation perspective, things would appear to be alright right now. Gas prices are low and congestion on our roads is somewhat manageable. Well, that may not be the case for everyone.

There are many who still have to go to work away from their homes and access to transportation may be more problematic during these times. These essential workers are the grocery store stockers, baggers and cashiers; delivery drivers; maintenance workers and janitors; trash collectors, etc. There are many such hardworking and dedicated individuals who are doing their jobs far from the safety of their home and with little recognition.

Which leads me to the tireless medical professionals. They can’t telework and care for patients at a hospital or a clinic. The new transportation situation is a challenges to them as well, especially those who work the night shifts and may not have regular access to a car. What is being done for them?

I must commend the District Government for transforming a transportation service that had been shut-down due to Covid-19 and operated somewhat similarly to Uber or Lyft. Now this service is provided exclusively for hospital workers at Howard University Hospital and United Medical Center. I pulled some information on this service from the District Department of For-Hire Vehicles (DPHV) website.

The cost per ride is $3, and service runs between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. To use the service, hospital workers must download the D.C. Neighborhood Connect app. The app, powered by the ride-share company Via, directs users to a location where they are picked up by one of 11 vans in the system. To maintain social distancing only three passengers are allowed on each vehicle.

The service aims to fill a gap in public transportation options after dark. While public transit during the evening and overnight hours was somewhat problematic before, it is almost nonexistent now. This is due to the fact that Metro and local bus systems have significantly scaled back service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Another beneficial aspect behind this service is that it has been expanded to take passengers anywhere in the District as well as to places in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. DPHV administers the program in partnership with Via and taxi operator Transco and it will remain in place throughout the coronavirus pandemic

So these are times which some may consider rather dark and depressing because we are fighting a pervasive and dangerous virus and many may have lost friends, family members and others important to them. But when we do see gestures of good will on our TVs, computers or experience it first-hand, this may invariably brighten our day.

But I bet you didn’t expect to see good will from a transportation perspective. Well, it can come from all corners and from where you least expect it.

So everybody, please be safe and considerate of others. Together, we can get through this.

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