Exact bus fare: 1968
In the early morning hours of May 17, 1968 four teens boarded a G-2 bus at 20th and P Streets NW. Moments later bus operator John Earl Talley lay mortally wounded after he was shot twice in the head.

The killing rocked the city as DC Transit workers began unauthorized strikes ultimately refusing to carry change at night protesting a epidemic of robberies and Talley’s death.

At the time, bus operators carried change for bills and many were holding hundreds of dollars at any given time during their routes.

The protests, along with a similar killing of a bus operator in Baltimore, resulted in an agreement to implement the first exact fare system in the country that was quickly followed by major transit systems throughout the United States.

Talley, known to carry an unauthorized gun to protect himself, evidently pulled his weapon as the young men tried to rob him. Talley’s gun was found unfired beside his dying body.

The four youths were quickly arrested. All ended up pleading guilty to robbery in return for dropping the murder charge. Three received probation while the 17-year-old charged with the actual shooting was held until his 18th birthday.

Bus operators at the Bladensburg garage where Talley worked staged a two-hour wildcat in the early morning hours of May 17th that was ended when Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 officials called for a union meeting.

A number of union meetings followed with a strike motion defeated by a narrow vote at a May 23rd meeting. However the union members voted to refuse to work at night for 10 days and the pay the operators who didn’t work their regular salaries in an attempt to settle the issue before calling a full-fledged strike.

The action prompted city officials, religious leaders, the D.C. Transit Company and the union to reach an agreement June 3, 1968 to require exact change with paper script being issued in place of change. Bus token sales outlets were increased dramatically and the plan that company officials said would never work took hold with an accepting public.
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