City to submit transit grant application

City to submit transit grant application
A hybrid DASH bus. (File photo)

By Olivia Anderson |

City Council unanimously approved a grant application to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for the 2022 Transit Ridership Incentive Program.

While the city’s application is for funds of up to $8 million, the expected maximum award is $7.2 million over three years for the TRIP program.

Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 as part of House Bill 1414, the TRIP program provides funding to transit agencies to improve the regional connectivity of urban areas, and increases statewide ridership by supporting the development of reduced fare programs.

The General Assembly allocated $20 million for TRIP projects next year, $12.5 million of which is dedicated to zero and subsidized fare programs.

Alexandria recently implemented a citywide fare-free program through DASH, which went into effect on Sept. 5. Created with the hope of expanding public transit ridership and accessibility for low-income residents, council voted to eliminate DASH bus fares during its FY 2022 budget approval meeting in May.

“That removal was predicated on an assumption around receiving some funds of this public transportation, the TRIP program … which was designed to do this exact thing and fund these kinds of pilot efforts around the Commonwealth,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.

The TRIP program includes a zero fare and low-income component, which will be scored based on impact on ridership, applicant commitment, implications for equity and accessibility and project schedule and readiness.

According to Martin Barnam, DASH director of planning and marketing, the grant application amount is based on projected DASH ridership and local fare revenues that would otherwise be lost from 2022 to 2025.

If approved, the TRIP program will begin providing 80% in the first year and decrease over the next three years. In the fourth and final year, Alexandria will be expected to cover 100% of the displaced fare revenues.

Along with the potential incoming TRIP funds, the city plans to commit approximately $1.47 million in local support next year and at least $9.8 million between 2023 and 2025 for DASH to operate fare-free.

“We are looking forward to submitting this application and seeking council’s support as we look to make transit more useful and affordable and accessible for residents across the city,” Barnam said.

Councilor Canek Aguirre made a motion to approve a resolution passing the request, with Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker seconding. Council voted 7-0 to approve the resolution.