Washington, DC, to offer free Metrobus passes for residents

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare for the District of Columbia and other major cities that public transit was a lifeline for essential workers and that even modest fares could be a burden to them. So the nation’s capital is introducing a groundbreaking plan: It will begin offering free bus fares to residents next summer.

Other cities, including Los Angeles and Kansas City, Missouri, suspended fare collection during the height of the pandemic to minimize human contact and ensure that residents with no other travel options could reach jobs and services at hospitals, grocery stores, and offices.

But D.C.’s permanent free fare plan will be by far the biggest, coming at a time when major cities including Boston and Denver and states such as Connecticut are considering broader zero-fare policies to improve equity and help regain ridership that was lost with the rise of remote and hybrid work. Los Angeles instituted free fares in 2020 before recently resuming charging riders. Lately LA Metro has been testing a fare-capping plan under which transit riders pay for trips until they hit a fixed dollar amount and then ride free after that, though new Mayor Karen Bass has suggested support for permanently abolishing the fares.

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