Everybody seems to be doing it these days — thinking outside the box when it comes to developing ways to allow society to simply continue functioning during the COVID-19 crisis. On Tuesday it was Watertown’s shared-ride taxi service’s turn to present some innovative ideas.

Appearing before the Watertown Transit Commission by conference call Tuesday, representatives of Brown Cab Co., Passenger Transit and Running Inc., convinced the commission to allow local taxi drivers to make free deliveries of food pantry items to the homes of people in need. Any delivery fees for that service would be waived, with the cab company likely being reimbursed by federal funds.

The cab service will also offer to go to commercial grocery stores, such as Wal-Mart and Pick n’ Save, to pick up pre-ordered and already-paid-for groceries. They will then transport the items to the homes of those who ordered them for a fee of $3.75.

Here is what the transit commission agreed to: The food delivery service would be operational only through the end of the “safer at home” social distancing emergency. The government is allowing shared-ride services to operate in different ways that are beneficial to society during the COVID-19 crisis.

Transit commission members agreed, unanimously, that the cab company should be permitted to perform the food deliveries to shut-ins during the COVID-19 pandemic, because its representatives and drivers want to do something special and beneficial for the community and it simply makes sense.

Using Bigg’s Bar and Grill as an example, shared-ride taxi representatives said a customer would call in their order, pay for the food using a credit card and Bigg’s would add on an additional cab fee of $3.75. A cab driver would go to Bigg’s, pick up the food, be paid the extra $3.75 by the restaurant, then deliver the food to the home of the person who ordered it. Grocery orders would be conducted in a similar fashion, for an identical fee, with the exception of free food delivery if the items come from a non-commercial source.

If a cab was transporting more than one food order, the orders would be segregated to ensure no cross-contamination would take place. Cab company representatives said there are few, if any, shared rides in Watertown taxis these days, with the company preferring to give single rides for the health and safety of all involved.

When delivering food to a large apartment building, taxi representatives said the resident who ordered the food would have to come to the main door of the apartment to pick up the edibles.

Discussing sanitation of city cabs, the transit commission praised the taxi service for its meticulous approach to keeping its cabs sanitized. The vehicles are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized frequently, according to cab company operators.

The taxi providers said they have seen some of their older drivers, and ones with compromised immune systems, taking time off during the COVID-19 pandemic, but said their healthy, current drivers are excited to be able to offer the new food delivery services.

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