Alexandria’s DASH bus service is at 40% of pre-pandemic ridership, and near-term changes include bringing back fare collection and adding a partition protecting drivers from passengers, according to an annual presentation given to City Council by the transit system on Tuesday night.
“We have some exciting things going on,” DASH Board Chair David Kaplan told Council. “We have been creative, we have worked together with other departments, with the health department and others to ensure that it is safe to use transit.”
In response to the pandemic, DASH discouraged city residents against traveling from home, suspended fare collection, moved to rear-door boarding and introduced face mask requirements. Additionally, the King Street Trolley has been completely suspended since last March. Now, however, DASH is working on expanding its mobile ticketing app.
“We are getting ready to move back to fare collection here hopefully in the coming months,” DASH General Manager Josh Baker told Council. “And that is contingent upon our board’s approval at their upcoming meeting, as well as the completion of the installation of driver barriers, which will create a partition between the passengers who are boarding… and when they’re paying their fares.”
Baker said that in addition to the three electric buses it got last year, that DASH will get eight new electric buses this year and then a dozen more in 2022. At that point, he said, Alexandria will have the largest fleet of electric buses in region.
The pandemic also pushed back the implementation of the Alexandria Transit Vision plan from July to September. The plan adds weekday-only N12 bus service on Seminary Road and Janneys Lane, replacing the current AT-2 route segment. It will also expand off-peak weekend service by 50%, with buses arriving every 15-30 minutes all day.
“We have seen our largest drop in ridership on our commuter routes, but we continue to see people… who need to move around Alexandria,” Baker said. “Essential workers, people who don’t have other options, they need to ride transit and you see them riding throughout the day all hours and all times.”