D.C. council members are considering a bill that would use increased revenue as it is reported throughout the year to provide each resident with $100 to use each month for Metro.
By only paying for trips taken, it could help get cars off the streets and subsidize Metro’s service costs, proponents said.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen sponsored the Metro for D.C. Act, which advocates say would help the environment while incentivizing more riders to use the Metro system and taking a burden off the budgets of those who rely on public transit.
“This is an investment in our residents by providing the monthly balance to residents instead of directly to WMATA. We’re asking WMATA [to] earn those riders through improved service,” Allen said during the transportation committee hearing.
He noted that there is a cost-control feature already in the bill, which prevents D.C. from paying for any trips not taken.
“The bill is structured so that anyone enrolled in the program would see their balance each month restore to $100 rather than adding another $100 on top of the existing balance,” Allen said.
No representatives from the transit agency attended the hearing despite their invitation, which committee chair Mary Cheh relayed had something to do with Metro having a conflict of interest. The majority of public witnesses agreed with the bill, with a few suggestions.
ANC Commissioner for 6A Keya Chatterjee offered concerns around unhoused and undocumented workers who would likely not participate in the program because they would have to register with D.C.
“The act currently is not accessible to undocumented neighbors, especially if the income thresholds go into place. Many of those folks who rely on transit, many are our service workers in our community. To make it more accessible, we recommend removing the agreement to share data with the federal government altogether or putting bounds around it,” Chatterjee said.
Because Metro is a regional system that serves both Virginia and Maryland, D.C. lawmakers do not have discretion over how the system runs. However, Allen noted that it does have more influence over the bus system.
Part of his bill asks for $10 million in annual funding that would be dedicated specifically to bus service, prioritizing those investments to D.C. neighborhoods that have historically seen less investment and where many residents depend on the bus service.
“This fund, ideally, could be applied to all aspects of the user’s experience for buses, certainly for finding additional lines or increasing frequency, but also for creating bus lanes enforcement and installing more bus shelters, maintaining them to get people a place to wait out in the hot sun or in the rain and cold, all too common sight in many of our neighborhoods,” Allen said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect that the program will be funded by using increased revenue, not budget surplus.