By Michayla Maxwell and Mennatalla Ibrahim,
Special to the AFRO
Completion of construction projects across Washington, D.C. have restored the city’s metrorail system (Metro).
Many feel that the changes have made the metro safer and more reliable for all that use it. One of the new programs introduced is known as Metro Lift. Participants can receive a reduced fare if they meet program requirements and are in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. Metro Lift was created with the goals to make transportation more accessible and affordable for people across the region. WMATA hopes this initiative will also be able to advance equity for different people in the region. The program will allow those that qualify to receive a 50 percent discount off all of their metrobus and metrorail trips.
Metro Lift has made riding Metro more affordable and accessible for low-income individuals all over the area since its introduction a few months ago. Today, nearly 4,000 participants have enrolled and taken more than 93,000 trips on the Metro rail and bus system.
“Everyone deserves safe, affordable and reliable transportation, and Metro Lift provides more access for those who need it,” said Randy Clarke, general manager and chief executive of Metro in a statement.
Free enrollment is currently available both online and at the following locations: Metro Center Station, Metro Headquarters and New Carrollton Metro Offices. However, despite making significant leeway, Metro seeks to expand the reach of this program to more eligible individuals and to establish more enrollment sites in the region.
Those who apply are required to obtain and provide a SmarTrip card for themselves and each person in their household, an active SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, a current D.C., Maryland, or Virginia government issued photo identification card and phone number. Once citizens have secured all four of these items they are eligible to take advantage of the program by enrolling online or registering in person.
WMATA implemented the pilot program in 2022 and WMATA successfully launched an ongoing initiative in June of this year, specifically for households that receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Metro considered a range of fare concepts to make fares simpler and more equitable,” Ly said. “With this program, we aim to expand access, increase affordability and advance equity for people across the region.”
The idea for this program, which launched on June 20, emerged through collaborative efforts between Metro’s Board of Directors, staff and regional partners, who identified fare discounts for low-income customers as a key priority for Fiscal Year 2024.
“This program is very important and honestly overdue. We should always be working towards serving the underserved communities in the D.C. area,” said Langston Johnson, a local college student who uses the Metro system to travel in his everyday life.
Johnson doesn’t qualify to receive the benefits of this program but still thinks they are impactful for minorities in the community surrounding him.
“Lately, there has been a lot of motion to push people out of communities they are used to existing in and there hasn’t been much service to rectify or combat these issues,” Johnson stated.
An increased cost of living due to gentrification of D.C. communities drove up the cost of living for families in the DMV area. The Metro Lift program will directly help residents dealing with finance struggles because it will allow their transportation expenses to be cut in half. This action will hopefully allow citizens to continue having transportation that makes their lives easier, and more affordable.
“It’s great that programs are becoming more well rounded and reducing the cost of other everyday expenses outside of groceries,” said Kennedy Irwin, a resident in Northeast about the program’s impact as well. Irwin was previously eligible for SNAP benefits and could eventually be eligible for the Metro Lift initiative.
“Transportation is a basic necessity people need and that hundreds in the DMV use daily. I work at the Wharf so riding the bus to work saves me around $200 a week since I don’t have to pay for parking for my car,” Irwin shared. Metro Lift is able to allow those that use The Metro Transit System to save additional money for their everyday lives rather than having to set aside large amounts for their daily commutes.
Kayla Holden, a student that attends school and works in the DMV area is also excited about the expansion of accessibility the initiative may be able to provide.
“As a Black woman, I know that programs like this uplift my community because it provides them with accessibility they may not have had before due to their economic status,” Holden stated.
In addition to the initiative being started Holden believes it’s also very important that the program is correctly advertised to those that qualify for its benefits. College students have been active in suggesting how to inform residents of the program.
“It would be smart to have on the ground ambassadors that connect to the community so information like this doesn’t come from a place that is foreign to those that can benefit from it and everyone knows the program event exists,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Holden believe the initiative will truly be impactful since it can reach those that don’t have consistent access to electronics or social media.
Currently, the WMATA website advertises chat help 12 hours a day Monday through Friday, and phone call customer service 13 hours a day, Monday through Friday, except for major holidays.
Transportation is important and should be accessible, affordable, and reliable for all. For further information regarding the program feel free to check out the information posted by WMATA at https://www.wmata.com/fares/Reduced-Fare-Programs/MetroLift/index.cfm.
“We will continue to work with social services agencies and other organizations to educate communities and grow the number of participants,” Ly said about the future of Metro Lift. “This week, we will be doing in-person outreach with our retail partners and at stations in low-income areas.”
Michayla Maxwell is an intern at Howard University. Mennatalla Ibrahim is an intern from the University of Maryland College Park.