Smiley Movement logo

The Virginia city where all buses are free

Words by Smiley Team

The US is currently in the midst of a financial crisis, first starting during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and now leading into the second half of 2022. The current inflation rate of just under 8% is the highest US inflation has been in 40 years. With that comes rising costs across the board like groceries, gas, toiletries, and housing. While this is happening the median income for people in the US has remained relatively stagnate over the last 10 years according to US Census data.

The cost of living across the US has been unsustainable for a long time, and with that extra expenses like transportation make things nearly impossible, but Virginia lawmakers are rolling out plans to alleviate some of those transportation costs. 

The plan started during the height of the pandemic when many people were out of jobs altogether in a Virginia city named Alexandria. A man named Canek Aguirre grew up in Los Angeles where much of the public transportation is free, and when he got elected to the Alexandria City Council he wanted to enact something similar in the city. 

“I was trying to inch towards it, but in the back of my mind I really wanted to get to fare free,” Aguirre told Governing. “Given the size of our community here in Alexandria, it just seemed very doable to have a fare-free system.” 

Then during the height of the pandemic, like in many other cities across the US, the Mayor introduced the idea to go fare-free on public transportation. Unlike other cities though, that went back to charging fares, Alexandria has remained free for almost two years on. 

Now that program is spreading to other parts of Virginia, investing $40 million that transit agencies can use to implement fare-free systems.

“During COVID, it became very evident to us how essential, how vital public transportation was to essential workers,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine said during a Transportation Board Meeting. “And so how do we keep people connected? Fares turned out to be an obstacle. So we are really trying to use this as an opportunity… and I think we will learn a lot through this process.” 

Programs like this could save some people upwards of $100 dollars a month in a time when that’s desperately needed.

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: In nearby Maryland, the non-profit Neighbor Ride helps elderly people access transportation to and from where they need to go.

SUPPORT: Public transportation is a great way to combat things like climate change, lowering energy usage and pollutants, consider riding more if you can. If you’d still rather drive consider working out a carpool so you can do the same thing on a smaller scale. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…