D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) announced Thursday their support for legislation implementing free Metro bus rides in the city and expanding the operation of buses along major routes to include overnight service.
The lawmakers said the changes in the bus service will occur on July 1, 2023, if passed by the council on an emergency basis on Tuesday.
“This is a big deal,” Mendelson said. “We’ll be the first major city in the United States to provide free bus service. This will be a game-changer for bus users; reliable schedules and faster boarding. There’s no question it will encourage more folks to use public transit, which means numerous benefits, from reducing congestion to improving the environment to stabilizing [Metro].
The proposed changes are a part of the Metro for DC bill sponsored by Allen that will also establish a $10 million bus service improvement fund dedicated to annual investments in bus lanes, shelters and other improvements to the bus system.
The bill would also provide a $100 monthly subsidy for all city residents to use for Metrorail, buses outside of the city or anywhere else Metro’s SmarTrip card is accepted. The subsidy will be implemented by the fiscal year 2025, Mendelson said.
“When I introduced Metro for DC almost three years ago, it was because I thought we could make public transit both more affordable and also dramatically improve service,” Allen said. “Now that we’re recovering from the pandemic, it’s clear this would be a win for riders, a win for D.C.’s businesses, and a win for [Metro].
“Making the bus fare free for all of D.C. is the type of transformational change that we can lead — with a focus on equity and economic recovery,” he said. “It’ll make a difference in keeping buses moving faster on our streets and in the monthly budget of thousands of D.C. families.”