Passengers boarding a Metrobus in downtown Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP
Washington, D.C., is on the verge of eliminating bus fares for city residents, joining other U.S. cities that are working to make metro bus and rail systems free to ride.
Already, Boston, San Francisco and Denver are experimenting with zero fare. In late 2019, Kansas City, Missouri, became the first major U.S. city to approve a fare-free public transit system.
The “zero-fare” movement has garnered support among business groups, environmental advocates, Democratic leaders and others who say that public transit boosts local economies, mitigates climate change and is a basic necessity for many individuals. The idea gained traction during the pandemic, which underscored the critical role public transit plays for essential workers who don’t have the luxury of working from home.
But despite the zero-fare movement’s growing popularity, it has drawn political pushback in some areas where the policy doesn’t easily fit in with budgets or local laws.
D.C.’s zero-fare bill was proposed in early 2020 about two weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a downward budget spiral for transit agencies nationwide.
“I don’t charge you when you need the fire department, but yet we’re going to make sure there’s a fire department when you need it. That’s how you need to think about this,” Charles Allen, one of the D.C. city councilmembers who introduced the bill, said in an interview with CNBC.
The D.C. measure aims to get rid of the $2 fare to ride the bus starting in July. The city council unanimously approved the measure, and it’s awaiting a formal response from Mayor Muriel Bowser, who can either approve, veto or return the bill unsigned.
Bowser initially expressed reservations about financing a zero-fare system that would also serve Maryland and Virginia without receiving funding from those states. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. In any case, the council’s unanimous support is enough to override a mayoral veto.
The bill would allocate $43 million a year to make the D.C. Metrobus free to all riders and to add a dozen 24-hour bus service lines. The money will come from surplus tax revenue. The D.C. Council is still considering whether to add a $10 million subsidy program, which would provide every city resident with $100 of credit monthly to spend on the D.C. Metrorail.
The public transit crisis
Kansas City’s bus system, called RideKC.
Source: Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
In many cities, the coronavirus sent ridership on subways and buses to historic lows, largely because white-collar workers were working from home instead of commuting into the office. That left essential workers, who are typically middle to low income, as the primary riders of public transit.
As fare revenue plummeted and transit agencies watched their budgets erode, state and local government subsidies along with federal Covid relief funding became necessary to preserve transportation for essential workers.
Zero-fare transit has since also become a cause among environmental groups that want to get cars off the road, labor unions that want to keep transit drivers socially distanced from riders and business groups that want to draw more customers.
Alexandria and Richmond in Virginia have successfully integrated fare-free transit into their annual budgets. Boston, Denver and others have tested pilot programs. Boston’s zero-fare experiment will stick around until 2024 for three of the city’s bus routes.
Meanwhile, Denver introduced temporary fare-free holidays like “Zero Fare for Better Air” in August and “Zero Fare to Vote” on voting days in November.
Kansas City’s bus system, called RideKC.
Source: Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
In Kansas City, zero-fare transit has become a hallmark of life.
“It feels like much more of a community space and I think that’s because it’s something you can freely enter and exit,” said Matt Staub, a founding member of Kansas City’s fare-free streetcar and a marketing business owner, who used to spend between $60 to $70 on monthly bus passes.
Kansas City first experimented with zero-fare transit in 2016 with the launch of its streetcar, a two-mile fixed rail line in the city’s downtown where riders can hop on and off, free of charge. The city is investing $400 million to expand the streetcar route to more than six miles by 2025.
Since the streetcar began construction in 2014, $4 billion has been invested into downtown development, including hotels and restaurants. Downtown’s residential population has grown from roughly 21,000 in 2014 to about 32,000 in 2022.
“The streetcar, at least from our perspective, is more than a mode of transportation. It’s more than just getting from point A to point B. It’s an economic driver,” said Donna Mandelbaum, a spokesperson for Kansas City’s Streetcar Authority.
The zero-fare bus started in December 2019 as a pilot program. Then after Covid hit, the city’s bus authority kept it in place permanently as a safety measure, since it reduced physical interactions between bus drivers and riders.
How to go zero fare
Making a U.S. city zero fare takes a combination of funding and political support.
Kansas City had both. Fares made up only 12%, or about $8 million, of the buses’ operating budget, according to Richard Jarrold, vice president of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. Meanwhile, the city was spending $2 million to $3 million annually on fare collection, according to Morgan Said, chief of staff to the mayor.
Similarly, D.C. fares are under 10% of the district’s transit budget, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. In Richmond, Virginia, where fare-free buses have been in place since the start of the pandemic, fare revenue was just 8% of the overall transit agency’s budget.
“For some smaller transit agencies that don’t really collect much cash anyway … they’re almost spending more to collect the fare than they’re actually receiving in revenue,” said Grant Sparks, a director at the Virginia Department of Rail and Transportation.
That made the economic argument in those cities an easier sell. Still, Allen, the D.C. councilmember, ultimately wants “to move towards a fare-free system for all public transit.”
Why fare-free is not for all
Kansas City’s bus system, called RideKC.
Source: Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
Even as the idea gains traction, zero-fare transit in America is the exception, not the rule.
In New York City, where a subway ride currently costs $2.75, officials have piloted ways to make fares more affordable. The city started the Fair Fares program in January 2020, which provides transit discounts to eligible low-income residents who apply.
But the city’s transportation infrastructure relies on fares for around 30% of its operational budget, a difficult sum to subsidize.
“Until a new plan emerges for funding public transportation in New York that would allow the MTA to be less reliant on fare revenue, there is no way to consider eliminating a vital revenue stream,” said Meghan Keegan, an MTA spokesperson.
Even in places like Virginia, which has had zero-fare success in individual cities, scaling the system to a statewide level has proven difficult. Virginia law limits how much the state can pay to WMATA, the transit agency that runs bus lines throughout Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.
Denver also plans to stick with fares for the time being, even as it deploys occasional fare holidays.
“In the absence of a significant new funding source, fares will remain an important component of RTD operating revenue,” said Tina Jaquez, a spokesperson for Denver’s Regional Transportation District. Denver’s 2023 transit operating budget is composed of 10% fares.
The conversation is happening at the federal level, too, although the debate has been split along the aisle.
As part of its spring 2020 Covid relief package, the federal government provided $25 billion in public transit funding. That summer, Democrats tried to rally support to extend the federal support. In June 2020, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Presley, both Democrats of Massachusetts, introduced the Freedom to Move Act, which would provide federal grants for states and cities to institute free-to-ride public transit. It was referred to a Senate committee in April 2021 and hasn’t advanced.
Republicans have not been as bullish on the idea of going zero fare. A budget proposal in Republican-heavy Utah that would make the state’s transit system fare-free for a year met opposition from the state’s Republican House Majority Leader Mike Schultz. He said that the transit system was already subsidized enough and “nothing’s free,” according to local station KUTV.
Zero-fare transit has also drawn criticism from advocacy groups like Transit Center, a New York City nonprofit. The organization found in a survey of 1,700 public transit riders that people would rather have better transit reliability and frequency rather than zero fare.
The split debate means that a federal zero-fare policy likely won’t be established soon.
“There may be some European countries that are doing it at a national level. I don’t think we’re going to do that in the U.S., with 50 states and many more local jurisdictions,” said Virginia state Sen. George Barker, a Democrat. “We’ve got a long way to go to get into that league.”
From Cartel to Evangelist: The Inspiring Journey of Juan Reyes, Puerto Rico’s Entrepreneur and Author
In the realm of entrepreneurship, few stories are as captivating and inspiring as that of Juan Reyes, a self-made entrepreneur and author hailing from Juncos, Puerto Rico. Despite being born into a low-income family, Reyes defied the odds and carved his path to success through sheer determination, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to his goals. From establishing thriving businesses to becoming a renowned author, Reyes’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the indomitable spirit of an individual driven by faith and dedication.
A Journey Born out of Necessity
Growing up in Juncos, Puerto Rico, Juan Reyes faced significant challenges stemming from his family’s financial limitations. To support himself and contribute to his family’s well-being, Reyes began working from a young age. However, he never allowed his circumstances to dampen his dreams or extinguish his ambition. Determined to change his destiny, Reyes embarked on a path that would not only uplift his own life but also inspire countless others.
A Multifaceted Entrepreneur
Reyes’s entrepreneurial acumen led him to establish several successful ventures that have made a profound impact. Among his notable accomplishments are King of Credit Repair LLC, KCL Clothing Inc, and Shalom Renovation LLC. These enterprises not only generated substantial revenue but also provided employment opportunities for others. Reyes’s astute understanding of business markets, coupled with his expertise in real estate, notary services, modeling, and preaching, contributed to his ability to transform businesses from scratch into multi-million dollar ventures.
Authorship and Beyond
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Juan Reyes is also a respected author. His debut book, “From the Cartel to the Evangelist,” has garnered significant attention and acclaim. This captivating literary work chronicles Reyes’s personal journey, from overcoming adversity to finding redemption and purpose through his faith. The book serves as a testament to Reyes’s resilience and unwavering determination, inspiring readers to believe in their own potential and navigate their own paths to success.
Sponsored by Christian Faith Publishing
Reyes’s literary endeavors have received a significant boost through the sponsorship of Christian Faith Publishing. This collaboration has allowed Reyes to reach a wider audience with his powerful message of transformation, faith, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The partnership between Reyes and Christian Faith Publishing (visit the website here) has opened doors for him to inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals seeking personal growth.
Recognizing the significance of his own journey, Juan Reyes has made it his mission to give back to society and uplift others. Through speaking engagements and mentoring programs, Reyes shares his knowledge, unique ideas, and experiences with business leaders and young individuals alike. His teachings have become a beacon of hope for those who have faced similar challenges and made similar mistakes, demonstrating that even a fallen business can rise to great heights.
The Pride of Juncos, Puerto Rico
Juan Reyes remains deeply connected to his roots in Juncos, Puerto Rico. His success story has not only become a source of pride for the local community but also an inspiration for the youth in the neighborhood. Reyes’s achievements serve as a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship, instilling hope and motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to strive for greatness despite their circumstances.
Juan Reyes’s journey from a humble upbringing in Juncos, Puerto Rico, to becoming a renowned entrepreneur and author is a testament to the triumph of resilience, determination, and faith. Through his businesses, writing, and mentorship, Reyes exemplifies the boundless potential that lies within every individual. He reminds us that with unwavering dedication and a strong belief in oneself, anyone can rise above adversity and create a life of purpose and success. Juan Reyes is an inspiration, not only to entrepreneurs but to all those who dare to dream big and overcome the odds.
Disney CEO Bob Iger rips Ron DeSantis over ‘anti-Florida’ retaliation
Bob Iger, CEO, Disney, during CNBC interview, Feb. 9, 2023.
Randy Shropshire | CNBC
Bob Iger on Monday called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against The Walt Disney Co. retaliatory, “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The feud between DeSantis and the company escalated earlier Monday, when the governor asked the state’s inspector general to determine whether the House of Mouse’s sly move to retain control over the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties is legal – and whether any of the company’s executives were involved in the scheme.
During the company’s annual shareholder meeting Monday, Disney CEO Iger addressed investor inquiries about the ongoing dispute between the company and Florida legislators. He noted that Disney has more than 75,000 employees in the state, and has created thousands of indirect jobs, as well as brings around 50 million visitors to Florida every year and is the state’s largest taxpayer
“A year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation,” Iger said, apparently referring to what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.”
He added: “The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business. In effect, to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me.”
Iger said Disney plans to spend more than $17 billion in investments at Walt Disney World over the next decade, which would create around 13,000 jobs at the company and generate even more taxes for Florida.
“Our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said. “And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Last week, DeSantis’ newly appointed board of the Reedy Creek district, now named the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, revealed that the previous Disney-allied board signed a long-lasting agreement that drastically limits the control that can be exercised over the company and its district.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during ‘The Florida Blueprint’ event on Long Island, New York, United States on April 1, 2023. Ron DeSantis made comments on the Grand Jury’s indictment of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States in Manhattan, New York.
Kyle Mazza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The agreement was signed on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House voted to put DeSantis in charge. DeSantis replaced all of the Disney-allied board members with five Republicans on Feb. 27. It was only then that Disney’s new binding agreement was discovered.
The agreement includes a clause that dates back to 1692 in Britain. The “Declaration shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration,” the document said.
The governor’s letter calls the board’s agreement an attempt to “usurp the authority of the CFTOD board” and “nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians.”
He said at the agreement also has “legal infirmities” including inadequate notice, improper delegation of authority and ethical violations.
Disney, however, has said that all of the board’s maneuvers were completely legal — the agreement was discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums, in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine law.
The development in DeSantis’ conflict with Disney marks just the latest move in one of several partisan battles being waged by the Republican governor.
DeSantis is widely believed to be laying the groundwork to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. That move is expected to come not long after the current Florida legislative session ends in early May. Polls show that DeSantis is the most competitive of the potential opponents for former President Donald Trump in a GOP primary.
The Florida governor took aim at Disney after the company publicly balked at Florida’s HB 1557 law early last year. HB 1557, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Republican state Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last April that the bill dissolving Reedy Creek wasn’t retaliatory, but then said “when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.”
Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about dissolving Disney’s long-established special district, which it’s occupied for 55 years, leading DeSantis’ critics to question its timing and the speed at which the governor acted against the company.
The fight between DeSantis and Disney shows no signs of slowing down. During a book tour stop in Georgia last week, DeSantis told attendees “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
WWE near deal to be sold to UFC parent Endeavor, sources say
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon appears in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
A deal could be announced as soon as Monday. UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the agreement, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is slated to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders would get 49%, according to the people. The Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion, they said.
Emanuel is expected to act as chief executive of both Endeavor and the new company. McMahon, likewise, is expected to be executive chairman, while Endeavor President Mark Shapiro will also work in the same role at the new company. Dana White will remain as president of UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as president of the wrestling business.
The development comes during the same weekend WWE hosts its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company has spent the past several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as chairman in January to oversee the process. Shares of WWE are up more than 33% so far this year, giving it a market value of more than $6.79 billion.
The deal will effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family-run business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation during the middle of the 20th century, and McMahon is the controlling shareholder in the company. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has grown into a global phenomenon, spawing stars suck as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July following a string of revelations that he paid several women millions of dollars over the years to keep them quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, who’s both Stephanie McMahon’s husband and the wrestler known as Triple H, took over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon came back in January, Stephanie McMahon stepped down and Khan fully assumed the CEO role. The elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year employment contract, according to a securities filing.
Khan in recent weeks has been making the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. He told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday that it’s been a robust sale process, drawing many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it a robust media and live events business, along with its decades worth of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, driven mainly by its $1 billion media unit.
UFC has paid off for Endeavor. Last year, the MMA league helped Endeavor’s sports business make $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor’s market cap stood at about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavor-WWE deal values UFC at more than $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit well with the cultures at Endeavor and UFC. McMahon has a brash public persona, making him an apparently good match for Emanuel and White, who are also known for their outsized personalities.
White, like McMahon, is no stranger to scandal, either. Earlier this year, video emerged showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public argument at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events such as WrestleMania.
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