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Some Arlington Transit routes seeing extreme subsidies

In some cases, each passenger cost taxpayers $30, $40, even $70 or more in pandemic era

Depending on their age, passengers riding  Arlington Transit (ART) Route 62 – which connects the Lorcom Lane area with Courthouse and Ballston – during the transit system’s 2022 fiscal year paid either $1 or $2 per ride.

County taxpayers kicked in a subsidy of about $75 for each of those passengers.

That’s according to data presented at the Nov. 14 County Board meeting, during which board members adopted a new 10-year strategic plan for the transit body.

Route 62, which runs only weekdays, was an outlier, as per-passenger subsidies for other routes were more often in the $10 to $20 range. And yes, the fiscal year in question was one that saw reduced ridership levels owing to COVID, exaggerating normal rates of subsidy.

But by the same token, subsidy figures only include operating costs; they do not fully factor in the not-insubstantial capital costs of running a bus network.

And the figures, taken as a whole, also suggest that the goal of years gone by, where bus passengers picked up about one-third the cost of ridership, largely are in the rear-view mirror.

ART service is provided by a contractor but is funded by the county government. Data provided at the Nov. 14 meeting broke down copious information by route, including daily passenger totals and cost per mile for operation.

Other heavily subsidized routes in fiscal 2022 include Route 53 (connecting Glebe Road, Westover and East Falls Church) at $64.87 per passenger, Route 74 (Arlington Village to Arlington View) at $47.44, Route 61 (Courthouse to Rosslyn) at $41.07 and Route 84 (Douglas Park to Pentagon City) at $38.80.

Two routes – 42 and 45 – had subsidies less than $10 per passenger (for weekday service), clocking in at $9.51 and $8.20, respectively.

ART fares typically are $2 for adults, $1 for seniors and those with disabilities. Students pay $1 but also have access to free ridership.

In an effort to gin up interest in a number of routes, the Arlington government through late December will provide ART service without a fare on all routes for the inbound rush hour in mornings and outbound rush in afternoons/evenings. Funding comes through the Northern Virginia Transit Commission.

“If you want to try transit and ride the bus to get to work or many other places, now is the time to go green with ART for free,” county officials said.