Montgomery County Fare Equity Study

Montgomery County Fare Equity Study Report (PDF)

Transmittal memo - Fare Equity Study findings and recommendations (PDF)

Purpose of Effort

The COVID-19 pandemic required transit systems nationwide, including Ride On, to quickly adapt and adjust their day-to-day fare collection practices. It also created an opportunity to fundamentally reexamine both fare collection policy and collection practices. Although Ride On and most transit systems enacted fare elimination as a temporary public health and safety measure, there were several examples of transit systems across the country considering or implementing zero-fare transit service prior to 2020. Reduced or discounted fares are a commonplace with most transit operators for seniors and people with disabilities, as required by law, as well as children, students, and veterans. Many transit systems are questioning or examining whether and how zero-fare or reduced-fare transit programs can be expanded as a tool to promote more equitable mobility, reduce barriers to access transit, increase ridership, and achieve other community goals. Discussions around zero-fare transit have been increasing in the past decade. In early 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced nearly every North American transit agency to apply safety measures to protect their customers and operators. On March 16, 2020, Ride On implemented a back-door policy, effectively discontinuing fare collection. Many transit agencies resumed fare collection over the summer of 2020, and more have done so since depending on local conditions. Funding from the federal government from the CARES Act (passed in the summer of 2020) and the American Rescue Plan (early 2021) have been used to varying extents for covering the cost of lost fares, making it easier for some agencies to take more time to consider when to resume collection. WMATA Metrobus and many surrounding local transit agencies remained zero-fare in 2020 but reinstated fares in January of 2021. Ride On has continued with suspended fare collection.

Based on interest expressed by the Montgomery County Executive and County Council members, MCDOT staff began work on an examination of zero-fare and reduced-fare options, and engaged IBI Group to research, analyze, and deliver this report on them. The examination of zero-fare and reduced-fare options in this report has been conducted specific to Ride On, and this report’s findings may not be applicable to other transit agencies operating in the Washington, D.C. region.

Comment on the study