FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Zoe Ades, Communications Director
COUNCILMEMBER PINTO’S STATEMENT ON BUDGET PROPOSALS THAT WILL COMPROMISE THE RECOVERY OF DOWNTOWN
“I am deeply concerned by some major budget proposals that will hamper the recovery of Downtown, the economic engine of our city. As we have seen from this tough budget season––a result of decreased revenue from Downtown property taxes––without dedicated investments in Downtown, not only will current Downtown residents and businesses suffer, but we will also continue to face budget cycles filled with more hard choices. The funding cut from the K Street Transitway and the proposed congestion fee on rideshare trips in and of our city center will disincentivize people from living and working in Downtown, compromising our long-term goals of rebuilding Downtown into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood. I support the goal of fare-free buses, but it is short-sighted to fund this important transit equity project at the cost of Downtown.
I am particularly stunned by the Transportation and Environment Committee’s decision to defund the K Street Transitway project. The K Street Transitway is a transformational project designed to make a key throughway more accessible for pedestrians, drivers, and––crucially––buses. The status quo of the K Street corridor is not acceptable. In fact, many of the projects DDOT and WMATA have been working on this year rely on the premise of the K Street network being a reliable connector. It serves no one to have free buses that no one wants to take because they are slow and unreliable.
I also strongly disagree with the congestion pricing proposal––$2 fees on rideshare trips in and out of Downtown during peak travel hours––included in the Public Works and Operations Committee’s budget. This fee will be passed onto the consumer and drivers working to provide for their families. While we do not know if this fee will actually reduce congestion, we do know that this proposal will penalize people for living and spending time Downtown precisely at a time when we are trying to encourage people to do both. Ward 2 residents have already expressed that this proposal feels “unnecessarily punitive.” Furthermore, this plan will disincentivize people from returning to the office, just as we are promoting a return to in-person work to fill our office buildings, support the small businesses that rely on daytime traffic, and to recreate a vibrant community downtown.
I call on my colleagues to find funding for fare-free buses elsewhere and to restore funding to the K Street Transitway and roll back the proposed congestion fees. A thriving Downtown DC is not inevitable; in fact, without focused investments for Downtown, we will face the consequences for decades to come.”