Why a transit subsidy for every DC resident?
Good for DC families: Subsidized public transit eases the household budget for families in every income bracket. In Boston, low-income residents who received a subsidy increased their ridership by 30% - that means helping residents get to appointments, work, childcare, and other trips they currently aren’t taking. Unlike housing, food, and other needs, there is no program helping residents with transit.
Good for Businesses: Our WMATA and public transit system is the backbone of the region’s growth and economic development. Any increases in ridership will mean more foot traffic and economic activity paired with reduced expenses for employers.
Good for DC Employees: WMATA data tells us that 65% of high-income riders receive some sort of an employer-sponsored transit benefit, while only 10% of low-income workers do. That's a huge inequity and only further reinforces who can afford to ride. From the 32BJ SEIU, on Metro For DC: “This measure will help the men and women who struggle to afford the cost of getting to work protecting and cleaning DC office buildings,” said Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU which represents over 20,000 property services workers in the D.C. area and Baltimore. “It will ensure that workers who keep the city running can more fully participate in D.C.’s economy.”
Market-Based WMATA Improvements: By giving residents the spending power, there’s a market-based incentive to earn District riders. Remember, if a DC resident signs up, but never rides, it doesn’t cost the District and WMATA doesn’t earn that revenue. Costs are tied directly to WMATA’s ability to deliver reliable service.
Necessary for the Climate Crisis: In DC, single occupancy vehicles are the largest source of carbon emissions. Last year, WMATA trips saved emissions equivalent to burning 41.6 million gallons of gasoline. As we aim to meet Sustainable DC 2.0’s ambitious goal of 50% trips made by public transit, we need to change incentivizes.
Complement Existing DC Programs: We already subsidize all students via Kids Ride Free ($22 million). Metro For DC would codify that transit is a public good that should be accessible to all DC residents in an unprecedented way.
Equality in Benefits: Transportation benefits are mainly employment-based, creating significant inequality for residents who are unemployed or less likely to work for an employer who offers a transit benefit. Hourly employees are less likely to receive any kind of employer-paid subsidy.