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$1 D.C. Circulator fares return next Tuesday

The service will cease being free because of the District’s new budget

A red bus rides through a city, flanked by trees.
A D.C. Circulator bus
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Say goodbye to those free rides on the D.C. Circulator. $1 fares on the red buses will return October 1 due to changes in the District’s upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget, which begins that day and will last through the following September. Free service has been in effect since this past February, when Mayor Muriel Bowser identified existing funding to cover the costs.

In a release Friday, the District Department of Transportation reminded commuters of the fare reinstatement, pointing out that the D.C. “Council rejected the zero-fare policy funding” during budget negotiations earlier this year. The mayor had proposed $3.1 million to finance extended free service on the Circulator, but the Council removed it, criticizing the data that Bowser’s administration provided in support of the initiative and noting that Metro ridership could suffer as a result. The administration has continued to push for making free Circulator rides permanent, touting a bill by Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd that would do that.

The legislation was proposed in June, and the Council’s transportation committee, chaired by Ward 3’s Mary Cheh, has not held a hearing on it yet. Cheh’s committee did include $13 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget to bankroll the expansion of the Circulator into Ward 7, located east of the Anacostia River north and south of East Capitol Street. This is poised to add a seventh Circulator route, which would likely run between Skyland and Eastern Market.

Six bus routes shown on a city map, with the routes depicted in different colors.
Existing D.C. Circulator service
D.C. Circulator

Riders can pay for the $1 Circulator fare using a SmarTrip card or cash. Seniors and people living with disabilities can pay reduced fares of 50 cents while children under 5 ride for free.