Amid and ongoing funding crisis - which in a recent report by Ray LaHood, stated the system needs at least $500 million additionally a year to sustain - WMATA has decided to end their negative balance program in an effort to regain “lost revenue.” WMATA has lost $25 million over a period of 17 years.
Previously, if you were taken metro bus and you had less than $2 on your smarttrip, the system would let you on and you could pay the next time you are at a metro station. On January 8th, WMATA will do away with this policy and riders with low or negative balances will have to add additional fare to their SmartTrip cards at fare boxes on the bus or exit fare machines on the metro. Because these methods of adding fare are cash and coin only, bus and station operators will be forced to provide additional assistance to riders during busy times such as rush hour.
Ultimately this will increase disputes over fares, which WMATA has claimed its working to reduce in its ongoing campaign to criminalize low income people - namely black and brown communities - who cannot afford high fares.
It’s true - Metro needs funding. But securing this funding thru high fares, service cuts and other anti-rider initiatives that inevitably results in the criminalizing low income communities and targeting those who are already struggle to pay metro fares is the wrong way to achieve this.
These policies only serve to make Metro more inaccessible to those who need access to public transportation most. Undermining access to public transportation will only worsen the racial and economic divides that plague our city all the while distracting the public from the real fare evaders looting the system.
According to a 2015 Tally by the Washington Post, “Roughly $50 billion in real estate development being actively built near Metro stations. That’s five times what it cost to build the original system.” and in 2014 report by Metro found “the value of property within ½ mile of a Metro station is $235 billion.”
This means that premium property owners and developers are reaping huge rewards from building near Metro, but for some reason we aren’t even asking them to pay a little bit of it back to support the system. These are people like Ted Lerner, a billionaire real estate developer who snagged more than half a billion dollars in subsidies from DC to build Nats Park and has properties that see value added by Metro across the region. Despite making a fortune in part thanks to the value Metro brings to the region, he refused to pay the $30,000 tab to WMATA when Metro ran late to help Nats fans get home from a long game.
Meanwhile, billionaires like Ted Leonsis of Monumental Sports sit on the Board of the Federal City Council and other big business groups who tried and failed to shove a sales tax down our throats before anyone ran the numbers to see who is reaping the rewards of Metro’s real estate value.
Let’s reject Metro’s misguided attacks on working class folks whose job security and livelihood depend on public transit. Metro needs a dedicated funding stream, not an aggressive police-driven campaign that makes it even more unsafe for riders.
How to take action and what you can do today:
On January 8 join Black Lives Matter DC, Save Our System and No Justice No Pride for “Swipes on Us” as we give out free Smart Trip cards to those who need them. More info: http://bit.ly/SwipesOnUs
Interested in sustaining long term public transit in your neighborhood? Sign up here to get connected to riders near you who you may even share the bus or metro route with.
Sign our petition calling on WMATA to give us a $2 Flat fare, Free Transfers and expanded service!