Staff Editorial: Council should explore alternative to costly MetroAccess

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MetroAccess provides subsidized transportation for residents with disabilities. (photo courtesy of Metro)

When a resident with disabilities uses MetroAccess to get around the city, the District government typically pays $53 to subsidize the rider’s cost, which is double the comparable Metro fare up to a $6.50 cap.

According to a recent WAMU report, there’s a far cheaper option for the city: the Transport DC program, through which riders pay $5 and the District chips in $23 to use a private taxi company. Aside from cost considerations, the service is also more convenient for users, with much faster booking times and individual rides rather than shared ones.

But Transport DC’s funding is capped at just $4.6 million. So rather than encouraging residents with disabilities to take advantage of this program, the District government is working to limit ridership and stretch out the existing funding levels. Starting in August, the District restricted Transport DC to getting residents to and from work or medical appointments, rather than any other type of ride.

We’re not surprised that an entrenched program is winning out over a relatively new alternative. MetroAccess is widely used across the D.C. region, and budgetary protocols can easily stifle efforts to advance creative, cost-effective alternatives. But who benefits when riders get a less convenient service and the District pays more for it?

Unless new facts come to light, allocating more money to Transport DC seems to be an almost painfully obvious decision. We urge the D.C. Council to review the pros and cons of such an approach, and to act promptly to ensure that the District directs its disability-transportation funding toward the right program.