Arlington Recognizes Transit Equity Day With ART Pilot Programs

Published on February 04, 2022

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On Feb. 4, 2022, Arlington County recognizes Transit Equity Day to celebrate the life and legacy of Rosa Parks on her birthday. Transportation is key to ensuring that all Arlington residents can live, work, learn, and play across the community.

This year, the County is launching two pilot programs -- the Low-Income Fare Assistance Pilot and the APS Student Fare-Less Pilot -- to provide no-cost bus access for thousands of students and residents with lower incomes who have been financially and logistically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"These two pilot programs help to further the mission of Realizing Arlington’s Commitment to Equity (RACE), which includes advancing racial equity to reduce and prevent disparities in our service to the community," said Samia Byrd Deputy County Manager, Chief Race and Equity Officer. "Even though no longer unequal by law, systemic barriers still exist. Our review of transit through an equity lens is to consider access based on need (meeting people where they are) and work to remove those barriers. Through this we aim to honor the legacy of Rosa Parks – equal treatment and equitable access to public transportation for everyone."

Using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, Arlington is providing up to 2,400 middle and high school students with pre-paid iRide SmarTrip cards, good for use on Arlington Transit (ART) over the next 18 months. IRide cards were designed specifically for Arlington students, offering ART trips at half price while also working on Metrorail and Metrobus lines.

Collaboration with Arlington Public Schools 

The new APS Student Fare-Less Pilot expands collaboration with Arlington Public Schools (APS) and focuses on students whose transportation challenges often can’t be addressed by yellow bus service. Among the difficulties: living at the farthest ends of a large walk zone and attending immersion or other programs outside their home school zones. 

Transportation staff will use data from the no-cost student fare pilot to study peak usage and other ridership patterns for consideration of future expansion and program modifications. 

Advancing Transportation Access to Employment 

For some residents, the ART bus system is key to getting to and from worksites. The second pilot, Low-Income Fare Assistance, will provide free transit to work to approximately 7,200 residents already enrolled in human services programs for families in the community.

Participants in this pilot will receive SmarTrip cards pre-loaded with $150 for use over the next 18 months. In addition to riding ART, the cards can be used for travel beyond Arlington on Metrobus and Metrorail.   

APS will help coordinate distribution of the student no-fare transit cards, while the County's Department of Human Services (DHS) will coordinate outreach for the adult transit cards.   

COVID Updates to ART Transit Service 

ART, the County’s local bus transit system, suspended all fares in March 2020 and restored them in January 2021. ART returned to operating all bus routes with no seating capacity restrictions in September 2021, reinstating four rush-hour-only routes suspended in March 2020. Face masks are still required on ART and all regional public transit.  

About Transit Equity Day  

Each year, Transit Equity Day is celebrated to celebrated on Feb. 4 to honor the life and legacy of Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks became a key figure in the Civil Rights era when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, public transit bus and was arrested in 1955. Her actions sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregation on buses unconstitutional. The actions and legacy of Rosa Parks is intrinsically tied to the concept of transit equity for all.

Learn more about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Library of Congress.  

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