New D.C. Council budget scraps gas tax, impacts Circulator service

Circulator buses could appear in new neighborhoods by 2015. (The Washington Post)

The D.C. Council approved its 2014 budget Wednesday, and the $12.1 billion budget includes a few transportation developments that could impact commuters.

For starters, D.C. is following Maryland and Virginia in changing the way it taxes gasoline. The District opted to eliminate its 23.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax, replacing it with an 8.3 percent tax on wholesale purchases of gas and diesel.

Phil Mendelson, the D.C. Council chairman, told The Post’s Tim Craig that switching the tax to wholesale purchases “removes the volatility from our gas tax.”

This change means that D.C., Virginia and Maryland have all altered their gas tax policies this year. Virginia recently got rid of its 17.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax, replacing it with a 3.5 percent tax on wholesalers. Maryland approved an increase to its per-gallon gas tax that’s set to arrive in phases.

The new budget will also impact riders of D.C.’s Circulator buses. The council approved boosting the fares from $1 to $1.50 for riders using SmarTrip cards (and it goes up to $2 if you don’t have such a card). The higher fares won’t arrive until July 1, 2014, which is meant to coincide with around the time Metro is next expected to increase fares on its buses and trains. (The transit agency decided in 2008 to have fare increases every two years.)

Circulator buses will also travel along new routes that will bring the service to U Street, Southwest Washington, Glover Park and the Washington National Cathedral. The new service would begin in 2015, according to a report from the Committee on Transportation and Environment.

The report notes that the higher fares would bring Circulator more in line with other bus options in the region, including Metrobus and suburban bus services.

For more on the budget, read Tim Craig’s story.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.



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