DC Council candidates speak about pedestrian safety, and subsidized transit (GGW)
As part of Greater Greater Washington’s endorsement process for the non-Democratic at-large seat, our elections committee emailed our questionnaire, addressing housing, transportation, and land use issues, to candidates running in the November 3 general election, for Councilmember David Grosso’s soon-to-be-former at-large seat.
Our questionnaire had a lot of prompts — 11 — and there are a lot of candidates in this race. Eleven of them — Markus Batchelor, Marcus Goodwin, Christina Henderson, Chander Jayaraman, Ed Lazere, Jeanné Lewis, Will Merrifield, Rick Murphree, Vincent Orange, Alex Padro, and Mónica Palacio — responded to our requests.
For readability, we are breaking the responses up into several posts. Today’s is the fourth through seventh questions. The candidates’ responses are below.
1. Do you support increased protections for pedestrians, such as those within the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act, which would reduce speed limits, ban right turns on red, and increase investments in sidewalks? What else would you do to increase pedestrian safety?
Markus Batchelor: Last year, half of all traffic deaths occurred in Ward 8. That statistic is even more heartbreaking when we factor in the number of children whose lives were lost. That is why it is important that we elect a member of the Council who can lead a citywide conversation about the benefits of bold investment in pedestrian and traffic safety infrastructure in every section of the city. The Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act addresses this issue, which is why I am supportive of several components of the bill. I support the reduction of speed limits from 25 to 20 on local roads. I am also supportive of the prohibition of no right turn on red signs and the sidewalk extension plan. Additionally, I am in support of exploring permanent open streets models and pedestrian plazas that make walking and biking safer and a more preferred mode of transit than driving and parking. I hope that these new initiatives will not only reduce traffic fatalities but also pedestrian related accidents across the city.
Marcus Goodwin: Yes, we must make sure pedestrians are safe. If elected, I would expand the width of city sidewalks, build a more comprehensive bike lane infrastructure throughout the city that protects cyclists, and make sure that these improvements happen in every ward of the District.
Christina Henderson: I support the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. During the public hearing on that legislation, we heard hours of testimony from people whose lives have been impacted by fatal or near-fatal traffic incidents. The core provisions of that legislation like reducing the speed limits, investing in sidewalks, and having all-ways stops as the starting point of design for residential intersections are no-brainers for me. Several witnesses spoke about the need to quickly implement safety measures and so I was pleased that the Mayor has already started implementing some provisions like lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on local roads. I am hopeful this means that the Council moving forward with the bill will not be met with opposition. In terms of additional proposals to improve pedestrian safety, I think it is important that the Council also pass the Curb Extensions Act of 2019 which would require DDOT to install curb extensions which reduce the distances that pedestrians have to cross. DDOT also needs to get serious about installing high visibility crosswalks across the District. It shouldn’t take over 250 days to turnaround crosswalk requests, especially at intersections that are frequented by children, seniors, or persons with disabilities. This could be an excellent opportunity to partner with artists in DC to add capacity for completing these projects.
Chander Jayaraman: I support all of those enhancements, especially reduced speed limits in residential neighborhoods. Step one to achieving the aims of Vision Zero is to enforce the implementing regulations of marked streets with “No Turn on Red” signage. The District should expand its implementation right away in high pedestrian traffic intersections and carefully monitor intersections with increased pedestrian traffic as neighborhoods grow. Another option to consider is the efficacy and value of adding raised crosswalks in residential neighborhoods which would force drivers to approach an intersection at a much lower rate of speed, especially in order to make a turn. Of course I believe that yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks should be enforced and the addition of smart traffic controls that give pedestrians longer and more frequent opportunities to cross would enhance pedestrian safety as well. We need to be open to innovative ideas, like building pedestrian safety into street design itself.
Ed Lazere: I support Vision Zero and other assertive steps to provide safe, convenient and enjoyable alternatives to driving alone and to achieve the District’s goal of 50 percent of commutes occurring by public transit and 25 percent by biking and walking by 2032. We must increase pedestrian access and safety, which requires re-balancing our transportation system and redistributing street space with a focus first on people not in a private vehicle. We know that lower speed limits and banning right turns on red save lives.
Pedestrian safety is a racial and economic justice issue. Low-income neighborhoods, where car ownership rates are low, too often have unsafe infrastructure for walking and biking.
As a Council member, I would support taking several additional steps to create more opportunities for pedestrians and protect pedestrian safety.
Conducting an assessment of all sidewalks in DC, to get a full picture of repair needs and support the planning and funding needed to address them.
A special focus on slowing the roads that act like highways through the city, such as New York Avenue, especially at night
Closing some streets to vehicular traffic to be permanent pedestrian areas — like 18th Street in Adams Morgan
Improving compliance and enforcement of safe walking accommodations in construction sites
Lengthening crosswalk times in areas with larger concentrations of older residents or others who may take longer than average to cross the street.
Expanding on the success of the city’s first Open Streets event in October 2019 by funding multiple Open Streets events in various parts of the city, in consultation with communities.
Jeanné Lewis: I support some aspects of the act, but not all. In particular the enforcement aspects of the act, and some of the speed limitations, will disproportionately harm residents who live in neighborhoods that are economically underdeveloped.
While I support biking across the city, this is not feasible for people who are disabled or with small children. Families who live in food deserts or areas with other lack of infrastructure have to travel to other parts of the city to get what they need. I would like to see the priority shift to the parts of the act that create greater equity in our public transportation system first before tougher enforcement measures are applied.
Will Merrifield: Yes, I agree with all of the above and would continue to work with and learn from experts in the field of pedestrian safety to make the District as safe as possible for pedestrians.
Rick Murphree: I fully support reducing speed limits, banning right turns on red and increasing investment in sidewalks to make our neighborhoods more walkable and safer. As we push for alternative transportation options and more people walking and biking safety has to be priority. DDOT needs to do a better job of addressing the backlog of projects that remain outstanding Motorist on our roads move too fast which endangers our children and seniors. We need greater enforcement of existing projects. It should not be that developers or construction crews can destroy our roads or not provide safe accommodations to pedestrians. I would also assure that taxis and shared ride companies don’t create more of an unsafe pedestrian environment by stopping in the middle of the street requiring pedestrians to walk in the street but create dedicated spaces for pedestrians to safely get into a vehicle.
Vincent Orange: Yes, I support increased protections for pedestrians and the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. I would also explore a pedestrian public safety campaign through virtual training exercises, webinars and advertisements.
Alex Padro: No pedestrian deaths are acceptable. The city has already reduced the default speed limit from 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour. I grew up in New York City, where no right on red is the law. The modest increase in travel time required by eliminating right on red in DC would be worthwhile if even a single life could be saved by the change. Sidewalks should be constructed everywhere that they are not currently present. No pedestrian should have to walk in the street because sidewalks are not available.
Mónica Palacio: I support a vision zero plan for the District and would explore additional initiatives that ensure the safety of our residents. The Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act requires the Mayor to install sidewalks on both sides of a street, to connect new sidewalks to existing sidewalks and to mark unmarked crosswalks. This is a good start. I would also apply racial equity metrics that prioritize investments in Wards 7 and 8. I would start by engaging community leaders and residents in those neighborhoods to better understand and address their safety concerns. Residents have told me their concerns about inadequate and insufficient lighting, as well as their desire for additional transportation options such as free circulator buses to reduce pedestrian traffic and minimize the number of pedestrians in harms way.
2. Would you support removing on-street parking for dedicated infrastructure, such as bus lanes and bike lanes? If not, why not? If yes, please give an example of where you would remove parking for a bus or bike lane.
Markus Batchelor: As the Councilmember, I will lead conversations across the city on the importance of infrastructure that improves safety. To that end, I am supportive of protecting bus and bike lanes. When I think of opportunities for initial investments, main thoroughfares like New York, Martin Luther King, Alabama, Georgia and Florida avenues and proactive improvements at major city developments at St. Elizabeths and Walter Reed will help make our citywide networks of bus and protected bike lanes more coherent and create a more productive transit network for those neighbors who rely on it most.
Marcus Goodwin: Yes, if this infrastructure is in a part of DC where it makes sense. For example, I would propose we add bike and bus lanes on Benning Road. This location enables better connectivity between east and west of the Anacostia river. Such a project would also make our transportation system more equitable and enable more opportunities for residents living in those areas.
Christina Henderson: Yes. I think H Street NE is the perfect example of the chaos that can happen when you do not remove on-street parking for dedicated infrastructure—in that case, the streetcar. I believe more residents would choose the bus as an option if the service was more reliable and dedicated lanes is one way to achieve that. One area where I would remove parking for a bus lane is on 7th Street NW between Rhode Island Ave and Florida Ave. This area is a nightmare during rush hour with the 70 series buses (many of which are the accordion style articulated buses), Howard University buses, ambulances, cars, and bikes trying to snake up one lane. There is already a semi-dedicated lane on the portion of Georgia Ave just north of Florida, by Howard University. This would provide continuity and ease the flow of traffic at a major intersection in the city.
As for removing on-street parking to provide more protected space for cyclists, that issue is personal for me. A couple years ago, a friend of mine was killed in DC after being hit by a driver while biking downtown. He actually was traveling in a bike lane, but the particular intersection at M Street and New Hampshire Avenue was problematic for several reasons. One of them being that cars parked in the parking lane parallel to the bike lane obstructed the visibility of drivers trying to make a right turn at that intersection. There also were no dedicated signals for right turns. It is frustrating to think that his death could’ve been prevented with better infrastructure design.
Chander Jayaraman: I would support removing on-street parking only if it meets the conditions of common sense, good policy, and community support. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased fear among regular public transportation users. Alternate modes of transportation, such as scooters and dockless vehicles, that allow people to travel in the open will increase. We should take action to build an integrated network of pathways across the city but given the historic layout of our city and the narrowness of some of our streets, we must carefully balance the needs of intra-city commuters with pedestrian safety. To the extent practicable, DDOT should attempt to provide protected bike lanes. One example of one area in the city where the removal of parking spaces would make sense is along the busy 14th Street Corridor in Columbia Heights. This stretch of roadway is extremely congested and at the nexus of a major north south bus route, a Metro train station that serves as a primary commuter path for minority communities to get to the heart of the District’s business corridor. I would support removing parking in this area to accommodate buses and bike lanes which can also increase pedestrian safety.
Ed Lazere: Yes. We must rebuild our transportation network to reflect the kinds of mobility we want to encourage — biking, walking and transit. We need to make those modes reliable and easy, and that requires us to stop thinking of roads as predominantly for cars, whether moving or parked. As a Council member, I would support a re-evaluation of our street network. It will help us achieve our goals of reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, reducing traffic congestion, improving safety, and creating great public spaces.
While on-street parking can often provide a buffer between sidewalks and moving traffic, it can also be rearranged and in some cases removed where a larger travel need is served, such as the dedicated bus lane on 16th St NW. It’s encouraging that the city has started to speed up implementation of its bus lane expansion program but it needs to do much more to ensure that bus riders have fast, reliable service. I would call for dedicated bus lanes on 7th street NW in Chinatown and would extend the H Street NW lanes further east. These bus lanes will make it so that many more people can have affordable, safe, efficient, quick commutes. Already, more than half of commuters on 16th Street use buses and that’s with buses being snarled in traffic. As they become faster, more reliable, and efficient that percentage should climb. 16th Street will be able to serve more DC residents and better than ever.
Bike lanes also have emerged as a key response to the Covid-19 crisis, at a time when people are looking for outdoor transit alternatives to bus or rail. We must re-evaluate the allocation of scarce public street space to make bicycle routes safer and allow far more people to take advantage of low-contact, fresh air bicycling commuting. As someone who bikes to work and to work-day meetings — and who has been hit and badly injured by a car while on a bike — I know the sense of security that a protected bike lane provides over not having one. As a Council member, I would work to create more opportunities for Black and brown communities to have access to bikes and bike travel, as a safe, healthy, and low-cost transportation option.
Jeanné Lewis: I would commit to more dedicated bus lanes. Last year, 27 people lost their lives in the District due to traffic accidents. 1⁄3 of these fatalities occurred east of the river and disproportionately involved pedestrians. DDOT has already committed to building 25 miles of protected bike lanes over the next three years, but none of them are East of the River. These development projects need to be strategically planned around community needs.
Additionally, by providing more bus lanes, we can improve traffic flow. One corridor that could benefit is MLK, Jr. Ave, SE.
However, I do not support protected bicyclist space until we have equitable development East of the River. Currently, the residents that live East of the River have to travel inconvenient and far distances for shopping, services, healthcare, and other activities/necessities. If we eliminate parking or make parking more restrictive in other parts of the city without providing those services and retail for residents that live East of the River, we further isolate people who live here. This creates an even further divide and disconnect between DC residents on either side.
Will Merrifield: Yes, dedicated infrastructure for public transportation is extremely important for environmental reasons, pedestrian safety and traffic congestion. However, there are many factors to consider when eliminating on-street parking and I believe this issue is a complex one. First, many workers have been priced out of the District and depend on their vehicles to get to and from work. The metro system in DC is unreliable, overly expensive and often operates on reduced hours that do not fit these worker’s schedules. Ensuring that the existing public transportation system is reliable, more robust, affordable, and rationally designed to meet the needs of workers in the region (not just those who can afford to live in walkable neighborhoods within the District), must be a crucial component of any District plan to build dedicated infrastructure that makes it harder for priced-out workers to drive.
The District has lost the public’s confidence with many of their public transit projects by funding things like the DC Streetcar; a project that came in tremendously over budget and does not rationally fit into a larger public transit scheme. Moving forward, these decisions should be made only after meaningful community engagement and the taking into account the needs of multiple stakeholders.
Rick Murphree: I am committed to alternative transportation from an environmental perspective. I believe we need to reduce the amount of cars in the city at the same time giving low income families the ability to travel around the city to receive the services they are in need of as well. Living east of the river, it takes some kind of transportation just to get to a grocery store. I am committed to adding additional bike and bus lanes during heavy traffic periods for both safety and environment.
Vincent Orange: Yes, I would support removing on-street parking for dedicated infrastructure, such as bus and bike lanes. I would look to the DC Department of Transportation and others for recommendations.
Alex Padro: The impact of elimination of on-street parking on residents and businesses located on such streets would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to determine whether the installation of bus or bicycle lanes would cause significant negative impacts. If a different route would cause fewer negative impacts, then such lower-impact routes should be utilized. When parking can be eliminated without significant negative impacts, such as on K Street, NW, west of Mount Vernon Square, such infrastructure should be implemented.
Mónica Palacio: I believe in an approach that identifies areas of the city that need more accessible and affordable transportation options. I support additional bike lanes that can be introduced safely alongside on-street parking. When co-location is not a safe or feasible option, I would engage residents to determine what their needs are. I would apply the same analysis for the addition of bus lanes. In some neighborhoods parking is scarce and in some areas parking and bike lanes are not the central concern. In neighborhoods where bike lanes and bus lanes are not the key issues, I would prioritize the needs of those neighborhoods.
3. As the region undertakes COVID-19 reopening and recovery efforts, automobile traffic and congestion will likely increase. What, if anything, would you do to mitigate this? Do you have a different vision for DC, and for the region’s transportation network?
Markus Batchelor: There is not a lot that lawmakers can do to mitigate the standard level automobile traffic and congestion after the city has completely re-opened. However, I would work to improve public transit networks to encourage more residents to use our rail and bus systems. I would also improve access and affordability in the many disconnected communities, like those in Wards 7 and 8.
Marcus Goodwin: We need to think creatively about how to provide a District wide public transportation system that works for everyone. There are too many residents who cannot travel efficiently and consequently are limited in what jobs they can get. We should continue encouraging greener transportation alternatives like bikes, scooters, and electric buses. The priority needs to be expanding public transportation access to those who haven’t had it in the past.
I would support tax rebates for commuters who would like to buy bikes and scooters to promote more sustainable modes of transit.
Christina Henderson: As we wait on a vaccine for COVID-19 but businesses start reopening and residents start returning to work, we cannot afford for all DC residents to resort to driving cars out of a feeling of personal safety. It will lead to increased congestion, emissions, and traffic accidents. There are a couple of things that could be done to mitigate this. First, DC officials must work with WMATA to speed up its timeline for a return to regular service. We cannot wait until summer 2021. Yes, ridership is going to be unpredictable for the next 6-12 months, but if public transportation is not reliable or is overcrowded due to infrequent arrival times, those who have options will choose something else. Two, as a Councilmember I would propose that DC temporarily create new routes for the DC Circulator service. Many people are not going to be frequenting the National Mall and Tidal Basin over the next few months, especially while the Smithsonians largely remained close. DC could re-route that line into neighborhoods that do not have strong public transportation connectivity. Finally, we need additional protected space for cyclists and pedestrians on our streets. Investing in protected space for alternative modes of transit will give more people options that won’t set DC back years in terms of meeting our Vision Zero and environmental goals.
Chander Jayaraman: It remains to be seen how rapidly and to what extent traffic will return, but now is a good moment to promote and develop safe alternatives. We are lucky to have the Metro system in DC, an extensive bus system, a Capital Bike Share program and decent, but woefully inadequate, system of bike lanes and bike trails for scooters and new mini-transit modes such as dockless vehicles. I would support a commuter tax to dissuade people from driving into the city but any funds generated should be dedicated to increasing and improving the infrastructure for non-vehicular modes of transportation.
Ed Lazere: Life will not get back to normal in DC until people feel safe on transit again. The Council must support WMATA in its efforts to protect transit workers, at least five of whom have already died from coronavirus, as well as passengers. Requiring masks and social distancing, requiring rear-door entry and blocking off the seats directly behind the driver are all good steps.
Moving forward, we must ensure that buses deliver high-quality service by dedicating travel lanes and giving them priority at traffic signals to improve their reliability and frequency. We should prioritize the needs of DC residents who do not have other reliable transportation options, so that they have safe and convenient ways to get around and can fully participate in the workforce and all aspects of city life. I would work for expansion of transit routes and hours in low-income communities of color, which rely heavily on public transit but have suffered the loss of bus routes in recent years.
I also would work as a Council member to make public transit more affordable and ultimately free. This should start with help to lower-income residents.
I also support acting more swiftly to implement protected bicycle lanes to ensure that essential workers and others have the option to ride safely to their destinations. We should examine how our frontline workers get to hospitals, healthcare facilities and other workplaces. We should ensure that they have safe and reliable options for bicycle and bus access. Due to bicycling’s advantage of low contact with others, expediting safe bicycling facilities, especially for low-income workers, should be a priority.
Jeanné Lewis: Mitigating traffic congestion in the District must be done in a way that addresses the various factors that lead to congestion in the first place.
First, we should expand the accessibility, affordability, and use of public transportation. Access to public transit is not equal across the city, with some areas even being considered transit deserts. By increasing the use of public transportation, we decrease the amount of cars on the street and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. I support additional subsidies of transit fares so they are affordable for all residents. Additionally, certain routes need to be more frequent, as that has been a common deterrent to public transit.
Furthermore, I support increasing the total number of bus lanes. I believe it is necessary to improve access to public transportation for District residents by expanding bus access in areas with limited metrorail access and creating bus priority corridors with bus lanes and signal priority.
Will Merrifield: I believe that if public transportation is affordable and runs frequently and on time, people will be more likely to take it.
Rick Murphree: To pull people away from their cars, we need to make things convenient, affordable and user friendly. We also need to do a better or ensuring bike safety for our riders who often are competing with buses and large vehicles for the same access to roads. We need to do an in-depth study on the specific areas that people are coming from and going to and provide free parking and convenient times for commuters to use that alternative transportation. Additionally, we need to make sure that transportation is reliable and affordable for everyone to use. We need to offer programs for low income families.
Vincent Orange: To mitigate this increase, we must ensure the region’s public transportation system is extremely safe. At a minimum, the region’s public transportation system may require and mandate masks, gloves, and temperature checks for riders to utilize public transportation.
Alex Padro: It is likely that a significant percentage of office workers will be able to work from home post COVID-19, and that office occupancy rates will plummet. In New York City’s financial district, post-911, many former office buildings were converted to residential use. Conversion of DC commercial office space into housing should be incentivized, in order to create more opportunities for workers to walk to offices. This would reduce dependence on private and rideshare automobiles and even public transportation and create more downtown residents.
Mónica Palacio: I support a plan to reduce traffic congestion by offering improved and expanded public transportation options. This includes requiring negotiate with) Maryland and Virginia to offer commuter bus services and investments in free circulator buses.
Currently, we also need to prioritize safe and affordable transportation support for essential workers. We must address valid concerns that Metro’s schedule of services is not meeting the needs of workers given that it has been operating at about 35% of normal service. Many essential workers and residents making essential trips have been calling for increased bus service. This is a key priority because services are failing to meet needs of our residents and the shortage has also led to overcrowding on buses that can lead to an increase in COVID transmission. Additionally, continuing to raise fares will disproportionately affect low-income households.
4. Councilmember Charles Allen earlier this year proposed that DC provide most residents with up to $100 per month on their SmarTrip cards. Though there’s no longer a budget surplus available, which Allen initially proposed to use to fund this initiative, do you support subsidizing transit fares? If no, why not? If yes, how would you fund it?
Markus Batchelor: Yes, I support subsidizing transit fares. I am the only At-Large candidate to call for a free public transit system for all DC residents. My political career has been rooted in addressing the needs of residents east of the river and my work in Ward 8 has proved that this bill could provide critical financial relief for the transportation needs of working class adults and students. As a Ward 8 ANC and Board of Education representative, I have talked to and worked alongside many residents whose transportation challenges prevented them from maintaining their jobs or the ability to participate in certificate and higher education programs. While we have to ensure we work as a Council to identify waste or investments that can be deferred to better serve our residents, I am also about the belief now is the time to invest more boldly to support our most vulnerable residents. That effort includes pulling from our rainy day fund and ensuring our highest-income residents pay their fair share.
Marcus Goodwin: I think this idea has merit, I think we should especially consider it in light of Washington’s congestion. However, the Coronavirus situation has constrained the budget and there are a lot of programs facing cuts. I want to make sure our limited resources are invested wisely. I believe that means targeted spending on programs that have a track record of success and enable economic stability during an unstable time. I would prioritize transportation, education programs, rent relief, and small business assistance to keep our city going.
To fund this effort, I would support more fiscal austerity to capital improvement projects that aren’t part of our critical infrastructure. We commit $1.1 billion in our latest budget proposal to capital improvements. There would be room for a few projects to be cut to fund SmarTrip cards.
Christina Henderson: I do support subsidizing transit fares and hope that one day we could get to zero-fare transit particularly for the bus in DC. I was excited about Councilmember Allen’s proposal; I thought it was an innovative approach to ensure to that DC residents in need benefit the most. Even though the budget surplus is no longer available, I still think it’s a policy worth pursuing, especially if DC government is serious about tackling the inequities we have in our city. As the COVID-19 pandemic has showed many essential workers, the vast majority of whom are people of color and lower income, rely on our public transportation systems. It’s disheartening to think those individuals are having to $5 or $6 to commute each day, putting their health on the line, to keep our city functioning even through a crisis. I don’t think there was a budget estimate produced for Councilmember Allen’s bill, but I would support a modest increase in residential parking permit fees and reciprocity parking permits to fund subsidizing transit fares.
Chander Jayaraman: We should absolutely fully subsidize public transit for students to go back and forth to school, tutoring, recreation and to work. The WMATA Board should look at its pricing structures for the system as cost should not be a barrier for people using public transit. Providing SmartTrip cards should start with those who need it most, and during the budget shortfall, should be means-tested. All traffic ticket and speed camera revenue should go toward offering lower cost fares for riders. Parking ticket revenues and a dedicated fee on parking garages should go to free transit options. If Congress allows it, a “commuter tax.”
Ed Lazere: Yes. As a Council member, I would support efforts to make public transit more affordable and ultimately free for everyone. Keeping equity front and center, the District should start with subsidies to lower-income families that rely on public transit and are most burdened by transit costs, as Council member Allen’s proposal would do. Expansion to all residents could be phased in over time.
I opposed Councilmember Allen’s proposal to use “future revenue growth” to pay for this program because it hid the actual cost of this substantial new public service and because it would have put funding for this program as the city’s sole priority for new revenue, ahead of every other need in the city. Rather than fund it this way, I would fund it through the traditional budget and appropriations processes. The cost is likely to be substantial, which means it may need to be phased in over several years. I also would support identifying new revenue sources, such as closing ineffective tax loopholes or raising taxes on the wealthiest businesses and residents.
Jeanné Lewis: Yes, I support subsidizing transit fares. Although we no longer have a budget surplus available, it is crucial to expand access to public transit. One way the Council could consider funding this would be through decongestion pricing. Single-occupancy vehicles would be charged to enter certain parts of the city during peak times. This would lower the amount of traffic on the road as well as raise revenue for subsidized transit. Prior to implementation, the program would need to analyzed to ensure it was put in place in the most equitable way.
Will Merrifield: Yes, subsidizing fares provides an incentive for people to take transit and helps create a public-transit oriented culture in the District. This will be good for the environment, traffic congestion and public safety.
Rick Murphree: Because of the current budget situation, I believe we need to still offer up to $100 per month for low income residents. There remain so many barriers to workers and families being able to safely get to work, school and around in the community. Here where I live east of the river, transportation is needed to just get to the grocery store or to grab a quick bite to eat.
Vincent Orange: Today, we find ourselves in a new normal that is still defining itself. Initiatives of the past may not be prudent today. Available dollars should be utilized to get the public comfortable with utilizing all phases of our public transportation system. Increased daily cleaning of our bus and rail systems, PPE for riders and employees of our public transportation system. Temperature screening of riders and employees of our public transportation system is a must. Investing in our public transportation system and our riders is paramount to confidence building which is extremely necessary.
Alex Padro: Subsidized SmarTrip cards should be made available for DC residents whose employers certify that their employees commute using public transportation exclusively or have stopped using private vehicles or rideshare and are using public transportation instead. A modest gasoline tax surcharge and/or surcharge on residential permit parking fees could be used to fund this incentive.
Mónica Palacio: We must support public transportation that is more accessible and affordable for essential workers, low income residents and residents who must make essential trips. I support a scaled down plan to provide SmarTrip cards thus reducing the overall costs. Under my proposed plan SmarTrip cards would be made available through government offices such as the East of the River services office, the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs, African American Affairs, and others and would be made available upon request or based on demand.
Article by Alex Baca