Free Ride On bus service has been extended an additional six months through July 2, 2022.
The Montgomery County Council voted for the measure Tuesday. The fare holiday was previously set to last through Jan. 2, 2022. Councilmember Evan Glass said a majority of Ride On users have a household income of $35,000.
“So if we want to use this pandemic as an opportunity to not only build back better but build back more equitably, having fare-free buses will go a long way in that direction,” he said.
“I think this is a no-brainer. This is exactly the type of initiative that we should be supporting,” Councilmember Nancy Navarro said.
“I think this is the right thing to do and I think the pandemic certainly brought it home,” said Councilmember Sidney Katz. “But I think we should have done it before and we should certainly do it after the pandemic.”
Councilmember Hans Riemer said he has concerns about Ride On service being free while Metrobus service is not. Areas like Route 29, Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill are heavily served by Metrobus, he said, and people who use it do not get access to free rides. Riemer said the council could appropriate money to compensate Metro in order to make bus service free, but that is also challenging.
According to council documents, Council President Tom Hucker and Glass — as members of the Transportation and Environment Committee — recommended consideration of free Metrobus service in fiscal year 2023 “once WMATA has determined its direction in its next-year Operating Budget.”
The free Ride On bus service will end effective July 3, 2022 unless the council approves another resolution, Council Senior Analyst Dr. Glenn Orlin explained.