December 6, 2022
To declare the existence of an emergency with respect to the need to amend the Department of
Transportation Establishment Act of 2002 to require the Director to enter into an
agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for fare-free
Metrobus travel and expanded after-hours Metrobus service in the District, to establish
the Fare-Free Bus Service Fund, to establish the Bus Service Enhancement Fund, and to
direct excess revenue to the Fare-Free Bus Service Fund and the Bus Service
Enhancement Fund.
resolution may be cited as the Fare-Free Bus Funding Emergency Declaration Resolution of
Sec. 2. (a) On October 4, 2021, Councilmember Charles Allen, along with
Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Christina Henderson, Anita Bonds, Janeese Lewis George,
Robert C. White, Jr., Kenyan R. McDuffie, Mary M. Cheh, Brooke Pinto, and Chairman Phil
Mendelson, introduced the Metro for D.C. Amendment Act of 2021, passed on 1st reading on
December 6, 2022 (Engrossed version of Bill 24-429) (Metro for D.C. Act), with the goal of
making public transit affordable to all District residents, especially District residents who are
most reliant on public transit to get to work, school, healthcare, and other important
(b) The Metro for D.C. Act was an updated version of similar legislation that had been
introduced in Council Period 23, shortly before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused huge
reductions in both the District budget, making the legislation fiscally unfeasible during Council
Period 23, and public transit ridership, putting the ongoing health of the Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) high on the regions list of post-pandemic
recovery priorities.
(c) The Metro for D.C. Act, both the version introduced in Council Period 24 and the
prior Council Period 23 version, sought to make public transit affordable for all District residents
by providing subsidies directly to District residents for use on public transit. While some smaller
cities have provided fare-free transit service, WMATA is a regional system, meaning that the
District could not order the entire regional system, or even just the portion of the system in the
District, to become fare-free and replacing all fare revenue was far too expensive.
(d) Recently, however, WMATA has confirmed to Chairman Mendelson and
Councilmember Allen that WMATA could make all current Metrobus routes within the District
fare-free for approximately $32 million. Additionally, WMATA could offer 24-hour service on
12 of the most heavily used Metrobus routes in the District for around $8 million.
(e) Fare-free bus service within the District and expanded overnight service would be a
major advance for transit equity in the District. Metrobus riders are disproportionately Black
residents and, on average, have much lower incomes than Metrorail riders. Further, service
industry workers, who are also disproportionately Black residents and other residents of color
and who have lower incomes than riders travelling during traditional commuting hours, work
shifts that start earlier and end later than other workers, and they rely heavily on late night public
transit service, which has been cut back significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, following
trends that reduced late-night service even before the pandemic.
(f) The opportunity to provide this transformational service for District residents is one
that the Council cannot pass up, which is why the Fare-Free Bus Funding Emergency
Amendment Act of 2022 (Emergency Act) would create special purpose revenue funds and set
aside, for the purpose of providing fare-free Metrobus service and expanded late-night service,
otherwise unappropriated increases to the Districts Fiscal Year 2023-2027 budgets that the
Chief Financial Officer identifies in the December and February revenue estimates. Ensuring that
these funds are identified for this purpose now will provide WMATA with the certainty it needs
to begin planning for the service changes, which could be implemented as soon as July 2023,
once the Council has formally appropriated the identified funds in both the Fiscal Year 2024
regular budget and an anticipated Fiscal Year 2023 supplemental budget.
(g) The Emergency Act would also create a fund and set aside $10 million annually to
further improve bus service for District residents who are especially dependent on public transit,
which is a feature of the Metro for D.C. Act, creating better and more equitable access to
employment, education, and other services for areas of the District that are overwhelmingly
populated by Black District residents and other residents of color.
Sec. 3. The Council of the District of Columbia determines that the circumstances
enumerated in section 2 constitute emergency circumstances, making it necessary that the Fare-
Free Bus Funding Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 be adopted after a single reading.
Sec. 4. This resolution shall take effect immediately.