CSG in the News: “Could free Metro in D.C. be expanded to Maryland and Virginia?”

A ‘transformative’ plan has transit advocates looking beyond D.C. Council

By Pete Muntean | WUSA9 | March 3, 2020

WASHINGTON — D.C. Council will now decide if it will pay for its residents to ride Metro for free.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen officially introduced his plan on Tuesday. If it passes, those in the District could get a hundred dollars on their SmarTrip cards each month.

“It’s great for businesses, great for employees,” said Allen of the Metro For D.C. 2020 Amendment. “But really, most important for those who have the least amount of access but have to pay the most for Metro, this can be transformative for working families.”

Allen says the program would be rolled out in stages. 

He says low-income families would be able to apply first. A family of four making less than 80-thousand dollars a year would qualify. Those behind the plan stress it includes extra bus service putting the total cost between $50 million and $150 million each year — a cost city council supporters say D.C. can afford.

“It’s an innovative approach that Councilmember Allen has proposed,” said Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. He said the idea could be expanded to Maryland and Virginia, but neither state legislature has proposed such a bill.

“We have to bring Virginia and Maryland on board,” said Schwartz, who said that free transit regionwide will benefit everyone with less traffic and cleaner air. He said that is the next step, but the District has the chance to take the first step.

“I’d love to be able to get to that,” said Allen. “This is going to be incredibly important to District of Columbia residents, but to be able to do free fare, we’re going to have to get Maryland, Virginia and the District all on the same page.”

Metro has not said what it thinks of this idea.

Those behind this bill also cannot say when this would go into effect. They tell WUSA9 this is a big effort — and say it could take a year and maybe longer.