Metro (WMATA)

DC-Area Leaders Propose Free Public Transit to Boost Ridership

Some transit riders are in favor of free rides, while others worry about their safety and are waiting for vaccines to ramp up

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Local leaders are looking new ways to get public transit riders to come back — even by proposing free rides. 

During a recent virtual panel discussion hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, News4 asked local leaders about free transit rides as a way to grow ridership. 

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said it's not as big a challenge as it once was to make it happen, from a funding perspective.

“Right now, I can say in Alexandria, funding that, if you will, is not as big of a nut as it was a year-and-a-half ago,” Wilson said.

He pointed out that fares haven’t been charged on buses for much of the past year.

Some transit riders are for the free rides, while other riders are more worried about their safety and are waiting for vaccines to ramp up.

Loudoun County Supervisor Mike Turner said he's hoping for free rides when new Silver Line service begins in the fall or winter.

“When the Silver Line opens up out here, we should have a period of time where riding the Silver Line from out here in Loudoun County is free,” Turner said.

Turner said once people get back into a habit of riding trains and buses, then fares can come back.

Metro estimated that at times during the pandemic, the agency has lost more than $2 million a day because of low ridership. The transit agency has yet to comment on the free transit proposal. 

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