Savings calculator stock photo from By Syda Productions/Shutterstock.

The WMATA board has approved a budget for the coming fiscal year, beginning in July. Riders will benefit from Yellow Line trains running to Greenbelt, all Red Line trains going to Glenmont, and new unlimited SelectPasses which are an even better deal than before with free bus rides.

Today, many Red Line trains at rush hour turn back at Silver Spring. There aren't as many riders north of there, but doing this forces riders at Forest Glen, Wheaton, and Glenmont to wait twice as long for a train at many times. Sean Emerson recently posted about changing this, and the new budget approves it.

Yellow Line trains turn around at Mount Vernon Square, also meaning double the wait for riders at Shaw, U Street, Columbia Heights, Petworth, Fort Totten, West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza, College Park, and Greenbelt. Starting in 2012 some Yellow Line trains went to Greenbelt during rush hours as part of “Rush Plus,” but Metro cut this in 2017. The new budget extends all Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt, adding more service on the northern half of the Green Line.

The third major rider benefit comes in the SelectPass, a flexible unlimited pass where you pay for 18 round trips (36 one-ways) at your regular rail fare and get all trips up to that value free. For rail trips at higher value, you just pay the difference. This was a great deal for regular rail commuters, but it didn't encourage riding the bus since bus trips weren't included. Now, they are, for free at all SelectPass levels.

WMATA has the highest transfer penalty for people taking both bus and rail among the transit systems in the largest cities. While WMATA hasn't (yet) eliminated the transfer penalty as it should, it's given people who commute regularly a way around it by offering free Metrobus trips in SelectPasses.

Will a pass save you money?

Contributor Gray Kimbrough created a SelectPass calculator. I've updated it with the new pass levels and to work with buses. Try it out, and post in the comments about whether it will be helping you!

What about SmartBenefits?

It's been a challenge for some employees to get SelectPasses with their SmartBenefits. The SmartBenefits administrator at your employer needs to allocate your funds to “Transit Pass Benefits” instead of the regular fare benefits. Once they do that, you need to wait until the start of the first month where you have benefits and buy a pass online with your funds. Set up Auto Reload so you don't have to do that again in future months. This fact sheet has information on how to set everything up.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.