The debate initiated in the District on how to finance the free Metrobus service in the nation's capital had an unexpected outcome, after the proposal of the member of the District Council 6, Charles Allen, who asks to "postpone" the transit modernization project on K Street, known as the Transitway, and divert those funds to cover bus fares.
"Let me be clear, this will kill this long-awaited project," DC Mayor Muriel Bowser replied at a news conference Monday, during which she expressed her disagreement with Allen's proposal.
The K Street Transitway project, approved in 2019 before the pandemic, includes the addition of dedicated bus lanes and platforms, which are separated from other vehicle traffic.
Muriel Bowser said having dedicated bus lanes will improve Metrobus service not just downtown, but throughout the city.
“Even people who love buses disagree when those vehicles are stuck in traffic and unreliable, even if they are free,” Bowser said.
Brooke Pinto, another councilwoman, present at the press conference, said that “a lot of residents trust our buses, and I think the free fare is a very interesting and important proposition, but we shouldn't make it happen at the expense of a really important project for our center".
Pinto said the Transitway plan would allow 50 buses to move through the K Street area in an hour; currently, the current count is about 37 buses per hour.
Both Bowser and Pinto also criticized District 1 Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau's proposal to add a $2 surcharge for carpools going in and out of downtown during certain parts of the day.
“We can't just casually say we're going to add a few dollars to this person or that person, when we're trying to get them back to work downtown,” Bowser said.