The D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment moved forward with legislation this week to dedicate $10 million to improve the D.C. Metro transit system and provide a $100 a month subsidy to most D.C. residents to cover the cost of riding the Metro system.
Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) introduced the Metro for DC bill in 2020. On Tuesday, it won the unanimous support of committee members Christina Henderson (D-At-Large), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D- Ward 5) and Committee Chair Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).
In nearly every way, the bill makes sense for a struggling Metro system in constant need of improvements and a declining ridership that remains almost half its pre-pandemic level.
The $100 SmarTrip credit would go to every D.C. Metro rider, adults and children alike, eliminating the need to qualify riders based on income. However, the bill seeks to assist low-income residents that are the least likely to receive transit subsidies from their employers, unlike federal government employees and higher-income riders.
The actual aim is to get folks back on Metro, and this bill and other measures the government has taken should bring the desired results.
Meanwhile, D.C. is becoming less car-friendly with new streetscapes that include more bus and bike lanes while eliminating street parking on many of its main arteries. In a much-needed effort to curtail speeding, drivers may receive tickets ranging from $100 to $500 depending on the miles per hour above the speed limit, and a recent bill the council is considering would let D.C. traffic cameras issue points for traffic offenses.
Additionally, Metro needs riders, and riders need a clean, safe, and reliable transportation system. The $10 million annual investment will help, but it will be a heavy lift for D.C. taxpayers. Still, the council seems assured that the city can pay the cost, which could be as high as $163 million, with revenues from rising property taxes and other tax revenues.
Metro for DC is a smart move. Our neighbors in Maryland and Virginia should take a serious look at D.C. and other places nearby and around the world that also provide free or subsidized public transportation and recognize the value of a viable transportation system for their residents. It’s a necessity with costs that D.C. should not bear alone.
The measure goes before the full council for debate, and a first vote is expected as early as October.