WASHINGTON—DC Councilmember Charles Allen’s proposal to give most adult residents a $100 monthly transit subsidy and add new bus lines in neighborhoods that need them the most would go a long way toward making public transit more affordable and encouraging residents to use public transit—but the bill has serious flaws.
The proposal would pay for the new program by devoting 100 percent of future increases in DC’s revenues to this program, leaving no new funds for other pressing needs, such as affordable housing and education, and limiting the ability of the Council to debate how to spend new money.
“Making public transit more affordable and accessible is critically important, but this proposal puts the train on the wrong tracks,” explains Tazra Mitchell, Policy Director at DCFPI. “With DC facing displacement and vast income and education inequities, it doesn’t make sense to make a new transit subsidy our one and only priority.”
“The more fiscally responsible and transparent approach would be to fund the metro subsidy program like every other program—through the normal budget process—allowing lawmakers to debate its merits alongside other programs that are important to families,” Mitchell said. “Given the size of this new program, it also would make sense to consider ways to increase revenues—by closing loopholes or increasing taxes on higher-income residents and successful corporations.”
The Metro proposal also misses the mark by using future revenues to give every DC resident the same transit subsidy, regardless of income or household need, rather than targeting the right level of assistance based on need. Rather than subsidizing families that can already afford transit on their own, a more equitable approach for the subsidy program would be to cap income eligibility and target assistance to those with the greatest need.
“A new program to make public transit affordable should support residents based on what they need—as a matter of equity—rather than giving everyone the same,” Mitchell said. “If lawmakers want to create a universal program that benefits everyone, regardless of income, then they should fund it properly through higher taxes on the wealthy and profitable businesses, but this bill doesn’t do that.”
A more detailed explanation of DCFPI’s stance on this issue can be found on our blog.