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The Washington Post

momentum builds for free or reduced-fare transit

May 19, 2021 | Culture

Transit systems for decades have been saddled with an obligation to partly supporting themselves through chasing ridership to increase revenue and reduce the burden on taxpayers. But the pandemic put buses and trains through a different prism. They were essential, transit advocates say, like many of the people riding them.

Rail ridership plunged about 90 percent in some cities at the start of the pandemic and is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, while bus systems’ reliance on lower-income workers has led to a quicker rebound.

Workers who abandoned offices — and their commutes — are expected to return in lower numbers this fall as employers allow more flexible telecommuting arrangements. Left no other option but in-person work are service employees who disproportionately are people of color, according to data reviewed by The Washington Post.