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Wheelchair-Accessible Taxis Arrive In D.C.

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Taxi driver Jim Lane secures his first passenger, Bobby Coward, in his new wheelchair-accessible cab.
David Schultz
Taxi driver Jim Lane secures his first passenger, Bobby Coward, in his new wheelchair-accessible cab.

A taxi driver is strapping Bobby Coward's wheelchair into a brand new mini-van taxi with a ramp on the back. Coward has been confined to a wheelchair ever since a car accident two decades ago. He says these new taxis, 20 of them, open up a whole new world for him.

"It's letting the world know that people with disabilities are now wanting to be included into society. We're no longer restricted to our homes. We can get out and move within our country," Coward says.

Unlike the MetroAccess transit service, these taxis are on-demand 24 hours a day. Other suburban areas already have fleets of accessible taxis, so D.C. is a little late to the game.

An industry executive says the way taxis work in the District, where each individual driver is an independent contractor, made working out the business model more difficult.

But now, with a $1 million federal subsidy for the 20 cabs, they're here. And Coward says it's not a moment too soon.

"It's impact's a giant leap. It's historical," he says.

The regional planners who secured the subsidy say they hope to expand to more taxis and maybe even reduce the demand for MetroAccess, something Metro has long been struggling to do.

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