WMATA’s $4.8 billion budget focuses on improving customer experience and equity

Posted: 17 April 2023 | | No comments yet

WMATA’s approved $4.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2024 aims to enhance its services and sustainability efforts by increasing bus and rail services, simplifying fares and investing in infrastructure projects.

WMATA's $4.8 billion budget focuses on improving customer experience and equity

Credit: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA/ Metro) has announced that its Board of Directors has approved the $4.8 billion capital and operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2024 which supports increased bus and rail services, simplifies fares for customers, creates a new low-income fare programme, caps MetroAccess fares at $4, furthers the Better Bus Initiative and enhances safety measures.  

In addition, the $2.4 billion capital budget allocates funds to invest in infrastructure projects and sustainability efforts to ensure that WMATA services are safe, reliable and efficient. This includes building new bus garages to support a zero-emission bus fleet, new Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles, advancing Metro’s new 8000-series railcars, technology upgrades to support next generation train systems and development of Blue, Orange and Silver rail line corridor improvements.  

“The FY 2024 budget focuses on optimising Metro services while continuing to invest in long-term infrastructure and sustainability projects,” said WMATA General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke. “With this budget, we are proud to invest in more frequent rail and bus service and a better customer experience, maximising the value we deliver to the region with available resources.”    

Once fully implemented, 75% of rail customer trips will have service every six minutes or better. Furthermore, the popular high frequency bus network will expand to 21 lines, serving half of bus customers with Metro’s most frequent all day service. The result will be a more useful network, offering better access to jobs and other destinations. These improvements address the agency’s customers’ top priorities and support the re-designing of its Better Bus Network.  

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The implementation of new simplified fares for rail and paratransit customers allows transit to be more affordable for the majority of WMATA’s customers and aims to increase ridership and revenue. For the first time, MetroAccess fare will be capped at $4. The agency will also launch a first-time region-wide low fare programme that offers customers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a 50% discount on trips.

“This is a win for customers,” said Board Member Sarah Kline. “We know MetroAccess serves our most vulnerable populations. To make this change for customers who use this service really does highlight our focus on equity across all Metro services.”

In addition, the Board of Directors proposed an amendment to the FY 24 budget which will waive the $2 fee for Senior SmarTrip cards after WMATA staff conduct a Title VI equity analysis on public participation and the Board of Directors approves the report. If approved, it will eliminate the $2 fee assessed for a card.  

While Metrorail service changes approved in the FY24 budget are expected to be implemented during summer and autumn 2023, as more railcars and operators become available, Metrobus changes, simplified fares and WMATA’s first low-income fare programmes are scheduled to take effect on or about 1 July 2023.