Black Lives Matter distributes Smartrip cards to protect needy Metro riders

On the 8th of January, Black Lives Matter activists instituted the "Swipes on Us" program, distributing preloaded Smartrip cards at the Anacostia Metro station to riders who otherwise would have had to risk confrontations with Metro management over no longer accepted negative balances when exiting at the other end.

Metro has launched a police crackdown on riders of color, supposedly for "fare evasion" based on arrests and racial profiling. The combination of this with the end of allowing riders to exit anyway if a negative balance on a Smartrip card would result makes the police crackdown even more dangerous. There are suspicions the real objective of this program is to "make Metro white again." In other words, Metro may be seeking to boost revenue not by actually collecting fares from African-American riders at all, but rather by deterring people of color from riding Metro at all so upscale customers better able to absorb further fare hikes are more likely to ride the system.

Metro has never really recovered from a revenue plunge in 2001-2002 caused by tourists avoiding the city in the months after the Sep 11 terrorist attacks. Up until that time, Metro was doing very well, especially after a decision in 1998 to cut fares attracted more riders and actually increased revenue. That had been expected and was the explicit reason for the 1998 fare cuts and reduction in rush hour fare hours. After 9-11, ridership went down, maintainance was reduced, and finally the 2009 Metrorail crash was the "nail in the coffin." Metro has been in a death spiral of rising fares, service cuts, and ever more police to threaten riders ever since. Not only that, with fewer riders each cop is a greater threat to each individual rider, due to reduced division of risk. Same as being the only rider on a train car when a robber is on board, except that these robbers wear badges and legal guns.

Distributing Smartrip cards at Anacostia Metro station (photo by Black Lives Matter DC)

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