Earlier this month, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman Jack Evans lauding WMATA for its attempt to speed up service but expressing his concerns over the impact of the pilot program being undertaken on the 79 express bus route. This pilot will ban the use of cash payment or SmarTrip reloading and Grosso fears that the change could worsen commute options for riders with disabilities or lower income residents.
"It is very important that we continue efforts to make our buses more efficient and faster, and I have no doubt that this proposed pilot for the 79 bus will show that this reduces overall trip times," Grosso wrote. "However, a speedier bus should not be a result of leaving some of our residents behind."
In the letter, Grosso made several suggestions to provide equitable service to all residents along the route.
WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld responded to Councilmember Grosso with a letter dated June 21, 2018. Wiedefeld confirmed that nearly 10 percent of riders of the express route either paid their fare via cash or reloaded their SmarTrip onboard but did not elaborate on any plans to accommodate those riders beyond already existing options during the pilot.
Councilmember Grosso awaits the result of the pilot program and will continue to monitor its potential expansion to other routes to ensure that WMATA buses remain an option for all residents.
Both letters can be found below.
On June 25, Councilmember Grosso also introduced legislation to stop the trend toward cashless-only payments at local food establishments over concerns about equitable access for residents who are unbanked or underbanked.