I'm excited to share we have a public hearing date for my Metro For DC legislation!
The Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment is set to hold a public hearing on February 23, 2022 at noon. You can sign-up to testify or submit written testimony in advance. All the information is here.
As a refresher, I first introduced Metro For DC in March 2020 -- right before, well, you know, all of this. Given the District was thrust into a rough financial situation, it didn't make sense to try to advance the bill. However, I re-introduced the bill last October, largely the same as before. And now Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the Transportation committee, is ready to hold a public hearing.
A public hearing is a great opportunity to:
- Show your support for the legislation;
- Offer ideas on ways to improve the bill.
And don't worry you don't need to be an expert. We love to hear from everyone, no matter what your experience is with transit. If you need reminder, we've laid out at MetroForDC.com what the bill does and why we decided to shape it the way we did.
There are two main components to the bill:
A dedicated annual fund for improving bus service: While this aspect doesn't always get as much attention, I think it is just as important. We need to make our buses run faster. We need to make them more reliable. And we need to make it a better experience to use the bus. That includes everything from building more bus lanes to bus shelters to give riders a place to get out of the hot sun or the rain while they wait.
- Give every DC resident a $100 monthly balance on their SmarTrip Card: Every DC resident would be eligible to sign-up for a $100 monthly balance on a registered SmarTrip card. Two quick points here: the balance is restored to $100 every month, but will never go above. That helps control for cost. Second, the money doesn't go straight to WMATA. This is important because I want WMATA to earn your ridership. Giving WMATA a large chunk of funding doesn't guarantee any improvements for riders and the research on simply making the system "fare free" doesn't actually point to service improvements. Plus, fare free systems are generally contained to one jurisdiction, while we would have to somehow getting Virginia, Maryland, and the Federal government to agree to fully subsidize fares. The estimated cost of going fully free might be as high as $1 billion.
In my mind, there are plenty of reasons why getting more people riding Metrobus and Metrorail is a good thing: environmental reasons, traffic reduction, easing monthly budgets for families, ensuring WMATA's future as an economic driver and more. This can be part of the District's economic recovery - supporting all our workers, but being good for businesses too to support their employees and customers. I have already heard from many small businesses that think Metro For DC could help them immensely to take care of their employees and support their economic recovery.
And finally, I also just believe it should be a benefit of calling the District home. Just like a park or a school or access to our streets, you should be able to use public transit as a benefit.
Hope to see you on February 23!