Public transportation is one of the fastest growing forms of transportation in the nation, with more than 40 million riders and nearly a million buses in service in the District.
In fact, nearly 1.5 million people ride Metro’s Blue and Purple lines daily, according to the District Department of Transportation.
But when you’re on the other side of the country, what you see in DC is a far cry from what you’re used to.
This article was originally published in The Washington Post.
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Metro buses are generally more reliable and economical than other public transportation options.
However, the DC Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been facing criticism for a recent decision to increase the fares of Metro and other transit service, including Metrobus, by 50 percent over a year.
A new study by the Metropolitan Washington Council found that the impact of this hike was minimal.
“The most important thing to remember is that our transportation system is very important to the health of our communities, our economies, our lives,” said D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells.
“This study shows that we are spending too much money on a system that is in need of a lot more investment.”
Wells is one who has made this point repeatedly in recent years.
“We should not be spending money on things that don’t deliver,” he said.
The study found that a fare hike of 50 percent would save $17 million over five years and would save the district $18.8 million in operating expenses.
The study also found that an increase of 20 percent would bring the district’s operating costs down by $1.9 million and save the agency $4.3 million.
Metrobus fares have been increased by a few cents in each direction since 2011, but have remained relatively stable.
In 2017, the agency raised the cost of an unlimited ride to $1 from $1, and a one-way fare to $2 from $2.
The two- and three-hour bus rides are still cheaper than what most other large cities charge, and many Metrobus riders pay less than $2 per ride.
The DC Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a fare plan that requires Metrobus and other bus services to cover the majority of their operating costs, and it is the agency’s job to negotiate that with the Washington Metropolitan Area Council (WMATA).
“Our plan is very simple,” said Metrobus spokesperson Stephanie McInerney.
“It says to WMATA that they’re going to get reimbursed for the full cost of operating the system, and that’s why we’ve been able to operate this way.
We’ve also been able, since 2009, to negotiate a fare structure that’s fair to all users.”
The Washington Metropolitan Council, which represents the area’s businesses and residents, opposes the WMATA fare hike, saying it will harm the economy and will hurt Metrobus.
“We have to make sure that the WMAT does its part to ensure that our citizens can get to work and get home safely, while maintaining a fair and reasonable price for their trips,” said Council Member Chris van Os, who also represents Metrobus in the council.
The DC Metropolitan Council and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission are in the process of drafting an ordinance to prohibit the WMTA from increasing fares on the Metrobus service.
The council also is considering a bill to impose a fee on Metrobus for every trip it takes.
Metrobus has been operating under a fare agreement with WMATA since 2015, and the company maintains that its service is more reliable than that of other public transit providers.WMATA has been trying to reduce its dependence on its own fares, which were established after the Metro system was privatized in the 1990s.
WMATA was granted a franchise to operate Metrobus from the early 1990s, and during that time it cut the fares it charged by 20 percent, with some fare increases going to low-income riders.
WMAT has also tried to reduce the cost for its buses and has reduced the number of stops by nearly half.
The WMATA Board of Directors recently approved a $200 million bond to upgrade and expand Metrobus services.
In September, the board approved another $200,000 to upgrade the agency-owned buses to include new LED technology, and more than $60 million to expand the number and type of buses.