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DC Council announces plans for free Metro bus service, overnight bus rides

“We’ll be the first major city in the United States to provide free bus service," DC Council chairman said.

WASHINGTON — The DC Council announced a major new plan to encourage more D.C. residents to use Metro’s rail and bus services.

DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson and DC Councilmember Charles Allen announced the council will vote on two bills, next Tuesday, that would make all WMATA buses operating in D.C. free next summer. 

The bill would also eventually provide a $100 monthly subsidy for District residents to ride Metrorail and any other service that uses a SmarTrip card. 

“We would be the first major city in the United States that will have free bus service,” Mendelson said. 

The changes to bus services, which would also include funding overnight, 24-hours a day service for 12 major bus lines, would likely cost $43 million to fund in the first year, Mendelson said.

"We appreciate the DC Council’s leadership and commitment to making transit more accessible for our customers," a spokesperson for Metro said. "These are big bold concepts that will encourage ridership throughout the region. We look forward to working with the Council and the Mayor on this legislation as it moves forward." 

The rail subsidy plan would not go into effect until later as both D.C. government and WMATA still have to determine the administration of that plan.  The legislation estimates the rail subsidy will be figured out by the fall of 2024. 

"This is, I think, that rare idea where I think everyone is a fan,” Allen said. 

Allen first proposed this idea before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He then introduced two subsequent bills in the following years called the “Metro For DC Amendment Act”. 

Those bills also called for dedicated funding of millions of dollars to improve bus service across the District. 

The two bills that will be voted on next week will also create a mechanism to establish fare-free bus travel in D.C. 

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