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Washington D.C. is Making Bus Transit Free Forever

Washington D.C. is Making Bus Transit Free Forever

In a groundbreaking move, the District of Columbia is set to become the first major city in the United States to offer free bus fares to its residents.

The city council unanimously approved the measure last week, which will begin around July 1 and waive the $2 fares for riders boarding Metrobuses within the city limits. The move is aimed at providing essential workers with greater access to public transportation and reduce the burden of fare costs for lowincome residents. An estimated 68 percent of D.C. residents who take the bus have household incomes below $50,000, and riders are disproportionately Black and Latino compared with Metrorail passengers, according to the council’s budget analysis.

With the plan, the council also agreed to expand bus service to 24 hours on 12 major routes downtown, benefiting nightlife and service workers. In addition, a new $10 million fund devoted to annual investments in D.C. bus lanes, shelters and other improvements was approved to make rides faster and more reliable.

There are some concerns about the longterm cost of the program, estimated at $42 million annually, as well as the limitations of public transportation. Bus routes cover a majority of the city, but there are still areas lacking proper public transportation.

The plan is also seen as an important test case on how public transit can be reshaped for a postpandemic future. Other cities such as Los Angeles and Kansas City, Missouri, suspended fare collection during the pandemic to reduce human contact but have since reinstated it, while Boston and Denver are considering broader zerofare policies to improve equity and regain ridership.

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