It’s embarrassing that the D.C. Council decided to shoot down a great proposal from the mayor’s office for a permanent free bus service in the District of Columbia.
The D.C. Circulator accommodates many people from different wards all around the District. No one has ever complained about it and there wasn’t any public outcry to shut it down, so why the city council — especially Ward 3 member Mary Cheh, who sits on the transportation committee — is so eager to end such a useful service is beyond my mind. It simply doesn’t make sense for someone whose job is to make public transportation more accessible to shut it down.
The Circulator free ride program has been running smoothly during its pilot phase since February without any issues at all. If the bus had had some kind of major incident or failed to run on time then I am pretty sure we could all agree on the city council’s decision. It seems more of a decision that was made just to save money.
Ending the free rides is going to have a heavy economic impact. Many businesses, especially restaurants along the route, depend on the Circulator’s passengers.
The pilot program has been so great especially for people who live on a limited budget. A lot of people applying for jobs in downtown D.C. depend on the Circulator to get there. The cost of taking the Metro bus back and forth for all their appointments can take a heavy toll on their wallets.
Cutting this service could be more of a loss to the city than a benefit. Losing the free bus rides could hinder someone’s access to essential things needed to survive as a normal human being. Some vulnerable people such as the homeless, children and the elderly don’t have the resources to pay for back-and-forth trips for medical appointments. When worse comes to worse, some will take the ambulance instead.
Another nice thing about the Circulator is that the drivers and operators don’t have to worry about unruly customers who curse them out because they don’t have enough fare. Free rides save the city money on chasing fare evaders, and it also saves the bus operators the headaches of handling unpaying customers.
Many tourists arriving at Union Station have a hard time figuring out how to use the Metro payment system, another advantage of the Circulator.
The D.C. Council should reconsider its decision to end the free Circulator rides.