Council paves way for making Metrobus free in DC

D.C. is one step closer to making it free to ride Metrobus in the city.

The D.C. Council unanimously passed the Metro for DC bill on Tuesday, which would make bus rides free in the District as early as July 2023, and put $100 monthly on a registered SmarTrip card starting in 2024.

“Today’s vote on this transformational bill shows the District is ready to be a national leader in the future of public transit,” said Council member Charles Allen, who proposed the bill. He said the bill, which has the support of businesses, the transit workers union and Metro, will make a “major difference in people’s lives almost immediately when buses become free.”

The second and final vote on the Metro for DC bill is scheduled for Dec. 20.

In addition, the bill also aims to fund overnight service for 12 bus lines and several transit improvements, including for bus lanes and shelters.

Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the director of government affairs and media advocacy for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, said last week that overnight bus service is a “huge” boost for restaurant workers, especially those who might be limited to ride-sharing home because they don’t finish working until after Metro stops running.

The council’s study of the bill found that 84% of bus riders in D.C. live in the District; 60% of bus riders are Black commuters; 68% of D.C. residents who take the bus have household incomes below $50,000; and residents who ride the bus are half as likely to work for the federal government.

“We know that a quarter of riders in D.C. earn less than $10,000,” Allen said earlier this month. “Nearly 70% earn less than $50,000. Making our D.C. buses free will benefit D.C. residents and about 84% of all bus riders in the District are D.C. residents. This is going to be a massive improvement in their day-to-day.”

Council Chair Phil Mendelson added that D.C. would be the first major city to offer free bus transit, and said he expects other cities around the country to copy what D.C. is doing.

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report. 

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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