The number of free public transit services in Northern Virginia could increase over the next few years, with an injection of funding for free-fare programs across the commonwealth.
At a Tuesday meeting of Virginia’s transit board, state transportation secretary Shannon Valentine said $40 million is ready to be spent as part of a sweeping transportation package approved by the General Assembly last year, but delayed as the state diverted resources to address the emerging pandemic.
Valentine sees the Transit Ridership Incentive Program as an opportunity to fund a broader transition to free public transportation, boosting ridership while lowing the barriers to transit use for low-income Virginians.
“During COVID, it became very evident to us how vital transportation was to essential workers, and fares turned out to be an obstacle,” Valentine said. “We’re hoping to move more people, and connect more people.”
Alexandria’s DASH, Fairfax County’s Connector and Prince William County’s OmniRide are among the bus systems that have expressed interest in the TRIP program.
The City of Alexandria recently approved a budget that will allow DASH buses to permanently end fares in the near future, as part of a long-term vision to overhaul the service sought by Mayor Justin Wilson.