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D.C. Circulator service will now be free through March

The red buses won’t cost riders any green. And Capital Bikeshare will be free to D.C. veterans for a year

A D.C. Circulator bus heading to Union Station
RaksyBH/Shutterstock

Update, February 26:

The District will continue to offer free service on the D.C. Circulator through March, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Tuesday, in commemorating the third year of D.C. Streetcar operations. Bowser also announced that for veterans who live in the city, Capital Bikeshare memberships will be free for a year. Veterans can call the Mayor’s Office on Veteran’s Affairs at 202-724-5454 to find out how to register for the bikeshare program and get a free helmet.

Original post, January 25:

Rides on the D.C. Circulator usually cost $1, but from Monday until Feb. 28, they will be free. Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement on Friday, saying it was part of a month-long campaign her administration is conducting called “Fair Shot February.” Bowser has used the “Fair Shot” slogan in various contexts over the past few years, having become mayor in 2015.

The Circulator runs six routes across the District and Rosslyn, Virginia, providing about five million trips a year. Those routes go east, west, north, and south. Last year, D.C. awarded a $140 million, five-year contract to RATP Dev North America, a Fort Worth, Texas-based firm that is a subsidiary of an international transit provider headquartered in Paris, France. The District Department of Transportation oversees the contract. Circulator service launched more than a decade ago, in 2005, and in 2015, it expanded to run along the National Mall.

“A free Circulator is one way we can use our resources to break down barriers to opportunity—but it’s certainly not the only way,” Bowser said in a statement, adding that in February her administration will hold community forums throughout the District to collect input on her upcoming budget proposal for D.C.’s next fiscal year. When asked whether the free service had anything to do with the now-temporarily-resolved federal government shutdown, and how D.C. would fund no-cost Circulator rides, her office responded with another statement.

“Hopefully, in addition to making it easier to get around throughout February, the Circulator initiative also serves as a strong example of how we can use our city’s resources to give more Washingtonians a fair shot,” it reads. It does not address other questions that Curbed asked about Bowser’s long-term plans for free or reduced-fare public transit, if any, and whether her administration had considered the potential impacts of the initiative on Metro ridership.