Zero fares creates a more accessible, equitable transit system - Albuquerque Journal

Zero fares creates a more accessible, equitable transit system

No one wants more interference in their privacy and personal whereabouts.

Yet, that’s exactly what is at stake if the City Council passes the transit fares ordinance, which is up for a vote on Dec. 5.

Ordinance 22-47, the Transit Fares Ordinance, would end the vital Zero Fares Program, which allows all Albuquerque residents equal opportunity to ride transit to work or school, attend medical appointments, and spend time in nature, regardless of income. It is popular too – 80% of riders surveyed by the city were in favor of the program continuing.

However, that program is now in jeopardy.

Councilors Klarissa Peña and Dan Lewis introduced legislation that would end the Zero Fares program early and replace it with a complicated pass system. Under this proposed system, as many as 70,000 riders will have to fill out an application before receiving a free pass, which the city can then use to track that person. Placing undue burdens on low-income transit riders and then tracking their whereabouts is not right.

No one should have to apply to ride a bus. No one’s whereabouts should be monitored. And above all, Zero Fares, which treats all riders equally regardless of income, should stay as is.

The councilors argue Zero Fares is causing public safety concerns. Yet, there’s absolutely no way to know that because there are not enough data to make any conclusions. Zero Fares must continue, and councilors can reassess community needs in June 2023. Let data and community input drive decisions rather than knee-jerk reactions to a few isolated or anecdotal incidents that don’t tell the full story.

Plus, most of the concerns cited are about maintenance: cleanliness and condition of buses and bus stops. Those are things the city can and should take care of right now.

In fact, there are several steps that the city can take to improve transit safety now, none of which have to do with Zero Fares. The city should increase funding for transit and create a holistic safety plan that collaborates with the community, Community Safety employees, and other agencies.

A healthy, thriving, and equitable transit system is reflective of a healthy, thriving, equitable community. Making transit accessible means providing more opportunities – not fewer – for everyone in our community.

We, the Zero Fares Coalition, hear stories all the time about the benefits of Zero Fares.

For example, teachers at Grant Middle School recently used public transit to take 93 sixth-graders to Popejoy, something that would not have been possible without the ease and cost savings of Zero Fares, says Makenzie Sanchez, former community school coordinator. They are not alone in using Zero Fares to save what little money public schools are allotted to allocate instead towards more important resources such as educational programming.

The Zero Fares Coalition asks that City Council hold off and make decisions about Zero Fares once the program is up for renewal in June 2023. Collect data, assess, and then make informed decisions about how to make our transit system more accessible and equitable. Everyone needs more opportunities to access transit and we think you’ll see that Zero Fares is a fantastic, vital program for our community that should be renewed, not canceled.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Zero fares creates a more accessible, equitable transit system

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