Washington, DC — This week, Councilmember Christina Henderson introduced three bills that would address the need for more data on District ridership, investigate the relationship between public transit and food accessibility, and provide an incentive for WMATA to create more transit-oriented developments (TODs).
Bridging the gap between public transit and food access
Councilmember Henderson introduced the Public Transit Study Amendment Act of 2023. This legislation would require the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to assess current public transportation modes and routes connecting residents in low food access areas to grocery stores.
“Despite rapid economic development in the District from 2010 to 2020, Wards 7 and 8 lost four of their seven full-service grocery stores. In that same period, 37 grocery stores opened in the other six Wards. Additionally, 85% of residents in Wards 7 and 8 live more than a mile from a full-service grocery store,” Councilmember Henderson stated. “These disparities are not limited to Wards 7 and 8. In Ward 3, residents can purchase groceries from 16 full-service grocery stores, whereas Ward 5 has only six full-service grocers. We must close this gap,” Henderson continued.
“Studying the existing public transportation routes in low food access areas will better inform the District and our transit partners of areas where routes need to be added or modified in order to improve access to healthy and nutritious food options underserved residents,” concluded Henderson.
The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brooke Pinto, Robert C. White Jr., and co-sponsored by Councilmember Vincent C. Gray.
Increasing transit-oriented housing and retailers
The Unlocking Housing at Metro Property Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2023 would accelerate much-needed development of mixed-use residential projects at District Metro stations. This is land that currently does not generate any tax revenues where building new mixed-use housing is currently financially impractical due to the existing infrastructure at these stations such as traction power sub-stations, roadway improvements, and other capital reconfigurations.
“The District’s regional neighbors have provided mechanisms to WMATA to reduce cost burdens and achieve higher density at Metro stations, it’s time for the District to catch up,” Councilmember Henderson stated. “Data shows that people living in transit-oriented developments drive less, frequently and bike, walk, and use public transportation more, which creates affordable housing and sustainable neighborhoods filled with people who do not solely rely on cars. Over time, this bill would generate additional tax revenues by unlocking transit-oriented development opportunities at District Metro stations,” continued Henderson.
The Unlocking Housing at Metro Property Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2023 would waive property taxes for 20 years on qualifying developments at Metro stations. To qualify, WMATA must enter into a joint development agreement that provides that at least half of a development must be housing, and 75% of the project overall must consist of new construction or substantially rehabilitated structures.
The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, and Vincent C. Gray and co-sponsored by Councilmember Charles Allen.
Providing quality alternative transit programs
Finally, Henderson introduced the Leveraging Engagement in Transit Services for Greater Outcomes (LETS GO) Amendment Act of 2023 which would require the Department of For-Hire Vehicles to prepare and publish an annual ridership report for its microtransit and paratransit programs. These programs include the DC SchoolConnect program, the DC Neighborhood Connect program, the Transport DC program, the VetsRide program, and the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation program. These alternative transit programs connect residents with housing, healthcare, and education services, and primarily serve seniors, low-income veterans, and residents with disabilities who prefer to use on-demand, door-to-door transportation services.
“This bill would require the Department to prepare and publish data on rider demographics, program performance, and customer satisfaction with program safety and reliability of all alternative transportation programs,” Councilmember Henderson stated. “Studies have found that on-demand rideshare services can improve senior health and reduce social isolation. With data, the Council can improve the District’s alternative transportation programs and quality of life.”
This bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Janeese Lewis George, Robert C. White, Jr., Vincent C. Gray, and Brooke Pinto.