- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2020

Getting to and fro in any major metropolitan area is neither easy nor cheap, chiefly because of clogged roads.

D.C. Council member Charles Allen on Tuesday plans to mitigate the problem with his Metro for DC Amendment Act 2020. Its goal is to get more motorists off the roads by putting their butts in seats on Metrobus and Metrorail with $100 in free rides every month.

Now, this might be construed as a novel approach, but it is not. Free mass transit is a trend, and trends like free love, free sex and Medicare for All always come with a price tag.

Besides, D.C. school kids have been riding the rails and the bus for free anyway — whether they jump the Metro turnstiles or flash their free SmarTrip pass.

Of course, D.C. taxpayers cover the costs for all students up to age 21 who attend a public, private or parochial school, or are homeschooled.

All students and parents need to do is offer a student or government-issued ID and prove D.C. residency and they get a free ride. And the free rides can be used for work, too, or to hang out at June Bug’s house all day.

Authorities cannot distinguish.

And therein lies a major rub with Mr. Allen’s proposition.

He and the lawmakers who support his legislation fail to acknowledge the criminal elements that could too easily surface with these free Smartrip cards.

Think welfare fraud and food stamp users and businesses.

Consider ne’er-do-well thieves who will yoke youngsters, elderly folks and disabled people to get the SmarTrips and sell them on the black market — the same way they hustle food stamps.

Now, Mr. Allen’s proposal is being cited as a free ride for po’ folks. But as usual, the devil is in the details.

As my colleague Sophie Kaplan reports in Tuesday’s editions of The Washington Times, “The subsidy program and the equity fund are estimated to cost $51 million to $151 million annually, depending on the participation rate and any negotiated discounts.”

“Negotiated discounts” means negotiate with nonprofits and government-employee unions and all bets on estimated costs are off the table.

With no fiscal conservative on the D.C. Council dais and nary a Republican within shouting distance besides President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mayor Muriel Bowser by default becomes the grown-up on this issue.

Does she really and truly think the best use of the city’s savings would be free rides for all?

Food and housing subsidies are one thing. Free transit for students, and discounts for seniors and the handicapped another.

Miss Bowser isn’t a fan of the motorists who live and pay fees, taxes and parking costs in the District. She prefers bicyclists.

Well, the majority of lawmakers have all but put the SmarTrip ball in her court.

Here’s hoping she isn’t foolhardy.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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