As part of a new research, the District of Columbia is planning to pay fares for Metro riders among low-income groups for six months, aiming to determine the effectiveness of possible subsidies to provide equality in the use of public transport.
The city will allocate up to $500,000 to fund the pilot for up to 2,500 social assistance recipients randomly selected by D.C. Department of Human Services.
Participants of the program will be split into three groups; no benefit (control group), free fare and subsidized fare.
The pilot program is the result of a cooperation between the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Metro and The Lab @ D.C., which is a scientific team in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s administration.
Metro’s Finance and Capital Committee explained the details of the program in a report released on Monday. The report titled “D.C. Low-Income Fare Pilot” states that riders that are currently receiving benefits from the government should get discounts in transit cost, because it would increase their mobility and quality of life.
“The District seeks to evaluate the mobility and quality of life benefits that may result from lowering the cost of transit for residents who are recipients of social assistance. For this low-income fare pilot, the District would enter a fare buydown agreement with Metro to fund the fare revenue losses associated with the pilot program,” the report says.
The assessment of the outcome for pilot program participants will be funded by the DDOT and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Abdul Lateef Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).
“Low-income households are the most likely to be burdened by the costs of using public transit, the most likely to forego using transit due to cost, and the least likely to have alternative travel options. Ridership and survey data
demonstrates that over 65 percent of highest income rail customers receive an additional transit subsidy through employer-sponsored programs, while only 10% of Metro’s lowest income rail customers receive similar subsidies,” according to the report.
The Metro Board will vote the pilot plan on Thursday.