The D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment voted on Monday to advance the Metro For DC Amendment Act, which would give city residents $100 a month on a SmarTrip card.
SmarTrip cards can be used on Metrorail, Metrobus and several other public transit options in the District, Maryland, and Virginia.
Cards and the money on them would be provided by the D.C. government, with a balance never exceeding $100, a number that would cover 92% of adult users in the city according to DCist.
Any costs exceeding that would be shouldered by the rider.
“The program is set up as a monthly $100 balance. That means the balance will always return to $100, never more than that. If you only use $20, it only costs $20 to return you to $100,” the Metro For D.C. website explains.
The new subsidy would be solely for adults who do not currently receive other transit subsidies. The Kids Ride Free program would be unaffected, and D.C. residents receiving another transit subsidy would be ineligible.
The Metro For DC bill’s primary sponsor, Councilmember Charles Allen, says the structure of the subsidy incentivizes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to improve service.
“The way this works is that Metro doesn’t get the money unless they earn it from you. They don’t get the money unless you decide that you’re going to ride and [that] you’re going to tap that card,” Councilmember Allen told ABC 7 News.
The subsidy, which comes solely from D.C. government funding, is aimed at creating more riders — and therefore more funding — for WMATA.
“First, we need to help our transit system. It’s in a lot of trouble, and this will do that. The second thing is, it will increase ridership and increase transit use with all the benefits that accrue. It’s not cheap, but the repayment to us as a community will be worth it,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh, according to DCist.
The bill also calls for a dedicated fund to “channel millions into improving bus service by creating new bus routes, reducing time between buses, building more dedicated bus lanes,” and other such improvements, according to the Metro For D.C. website.
The fund would receive $10 million annually.