Transit Equity in Action: the new DASH Bus Network

by Jim Durham

DASH Bus is proposing the most significant change in DASH Bus operations in 37 years. If approved by the Alexandria Transit Company (ATC) Board on May 12, 2021, the New DASH Network would dramatically increase the percentage of residents who are served by frequent, all-day service:
• from 27% to 66% for all residents (a 2.4x increase);
• from 29% to 73%, for low-income residents (a 2.5x increase);
• from 22% to 70% for residents of color (a 3.2x increase); and,
• from 23% to 62% for Seniors (a 2.7x increase).
We in Grassroots Alexandria strongly support these anti-poverty, pro-environment updates to the DASH network. We are asking for your support for this plan and for the next logical step: Reduced or no fares for low-income residents.

1. Please attend one of the four virtual community meetings to be held between March 23 and March 31 to learn more about the New DASH Network and provide your feedback.

2. Please reach out to the ATC Board via email to dashbus@alexandriava.gov and/or speak at the virtual ATC Board meeting April 14. Register here. Ask the Board to implement free and/or reduced fares for low-income residents.

A growing number of jurisdictions in the US recognize that benefits of providing free or reduced fares for low-income residents outweigh costs. Portland, Oregon’s program, for example, provides half-priced fares to residents making less than two times the federal poverty level. Kansas City, Missouri eliminated bus fares to encourage more residents to use their system, as part of a wider goal to improve quality of life. Transit subsidies for low-income residents enable them to live closer to their jobs and avoid the cost burden of car ownership. When combined with access to high-frequency all-day bus service, free and/or reduced fares can be a game changer for both traffic congestion and climate change.

Under the current plan, the percentage of jobs served by frequent, all-day service would increase from 40% to 66%. As Alexandrians, we are proud that our City is improving bus service during COVID. They are doing so by aggressively pursuing external funding:

• The DASH bus budget will use of $1.6 million in remaining CARES Act transit relief funds for COVID-related expenses and to offset reduced revenue during the pandemic. An additional $1.3 million in CRRSSA (“CARES 2”) funds, instead of City funds, will cover the annual DASH budget increase.
• DASH has applied for $9.4 million over two years (FY22-23) from the I-395/95 Commuter Choice program to fund the two high-frequency DASH lines at the heart of the current plan. These are lines 35 (West End – Pentagon) and 36 (West End – Potomac Yard). According to the DASH staff report to the ATC Board for their March 10 meeting, “Final funding decisions [for the Commuter Choice program] will not be made until June 2021, however both DASH applications appear to have a good chance of being funded.”

Additional improvements are proposed in subsequent years to provide frequent, all-day service to 83% of residents and 81% of jobs by 2030. Changes proposed for FY2022 would implement the initial phase of the Alexandria Transit Vision (ATV) plan, produced after nearly two years of planning and community outreach.

The proposed plan and a complete list of engagement opportunities where you can learn more about the plan are here. As proposed, the new DASH network will launch on September 5, 2021.

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