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Bill giving DC residents $100 Metro cards passes committee

The bill would also funnel millions each year into the new Transit Equity Fund to improve service and reliability for riders in under-invested neighborhoods.

WASHINGTON — A bill that outlines a plan to give $100 Metro cards to all D.C. residents has passed the committee on Transportation and the Environment and will now head to the Committee of the Whole. 

The bill would then head to the full Council if passed for consideration - possibly next month.

Councilmember Charles Allen’s Metro for DC bill would also funnel millions each year into the new Transit Equity Fund to improve service and reliability for riders in under-invested neighborhoods.  

Specifically, the bill would allow all D.C. residents to sign up for a recurring monthly balance of $100 on their SmarTrip cards and dedicate at least $10 million annually to improving and expanding bus and transit service in the District. 

Plus, beyond WMATA, riders could use the $100 card on the DC Circulator, the Virginia Railway Express, the bus, and the Fairfax Connector; anywhere that SmarTrip cards are accepted.

“For the essential worker who never stopped commuting and depends on the bus and train, this is going to be a much-needed boost to their family’s budget," said Ward 6 Councilmember Allen. "And for residents who have more options, this will help bring more people back to the Metro.”

The council member also highlighted the need to invest in the system's infrastructure. I want to be clear: low-cost or free service isn’t worth much if the system doesn’t meet riders’ needs. That's why Metro for DC pairs this monthly transit subsidy with millions each year to improve bus and transit - especially in underserved neighborhoods - to improve service, reliability, frequency, and quality of the rides residents need."

On the website dedicated to the bill, Allen specifies that although the bill draws inspiration from other systems that have guaranteed free transit, riders will still be paying to use the Metro if they are not District residents.

The credit would not be issued to residents of Virginia and Maryland. In addition, anyone receiving or eligible to receive a subsidy from the federal, state, or local government (including the DC Council) would not be eligible for the new card.

He says that a halt to fare collection entirely is not likely to happen in the region with Maryland, Virginia and the federal government all needing to agree.

And if a resident doesn't use all $100 every month? The council member says that's anticipated in the program's design. A resident's card would never exceed a $100 balance, so even if a commuter was to only use $20, it would then only cost the city $20 to return that commuter's card to $100. 

In its final version of the bill, the Committee elected to make the benefit available to all D.C. residents immediately rather than go through an extensive process to set up means testing to make the program available only at certain income levels.  
The new rollout also wouldn't affect the currently in place Kids Ride Free program, as it would only apply to adults.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

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