(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

Instead of spending Halloween in a costume, Tamara Vatnick was inside a car. And instead of going for a scary look, her goal was to be as approachable as possible.

That’s because the 28-year-old Park View resident was volunteering with RightRides DC, a program that offers free car trips home for women and LGBT folks. It’s the newest initiative from Collective Action for Safe Spaces, the group responsible for the anti-sexual harassment signs on Metro.

CASS continues to push for better transit behavior, according to communications director Renee Davidson. A second round of public service announcements is coming soon that will also make it clear that harassing LGBT individuals is not acceptable. And Davidson notes that Metro is training its station managers, conductors and other employees in how to respond to such complaints.

But that won’t help on the streets, which is where Washingtonians often find themselves late at night after Metro closes. CASS surveys show that the cost of cabs is a huge barrier, and many people walk home at night “even though they don’t feel safe to do so,” Davidson adds.

The CASS solution? RightRides, inspired by a New York program. For the launch in D.C. on Oct. 31, Zipcar donated three of its vehicles for use by CASS volunteers.

The concept is simple: While dispatchers handle the phones, drivers and navigators work in teams of two — always including at least one woman — to collect passengers and bring them to their destinations.

“I was worried we’d just be sitting around, but as soon as we did a drop-off, we immediately had another person to pick up,” says Vatnick, whose navigator job allowed her to chat with everyone who landed in the back seat, often about past cab rides gone awry.

By 3 a.m., the team had ferried 20 passengers. But double that number had called, adds Davidson, who’s notes that CASS wants to get RightRides operating every Saturday soon. For now, Zipcar has committed to just four nights a year, so the next outing will be this winter.

You can vote online for the date — and sign up to volunteer. It’s rewarding, Vatnick promises. “And you’ll wake up without a hangover,” she adds.

 

Read previous columns:

It isn’t just street harassment. Women face unwanted attention no matter how they get around.

Riding around D.C. on Halloween could haunt you

Biking on M Street: Whose lane is it anyway?