ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Starting Saturday, passengers can take the bus down Central Avenue for free on the weekend and during the early evening on weekdays.
The free fares will last throughout the holiday shopping season, until Jan. 8.
Mayor Richard Berry joined councilors Ken Sanchez and Isaac Benton to announce the free bus fare — a move they hope will encourage people to visit local businesses in Albuquerque’s urban core, especially as it’s squeezed by construction of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
“I know that some of the businesses are suffering,” Sanchez said, but “this is one way this community can say we support the local businesses along Central.”
Berry said he hopes the free fares will show new riders who convenient it is.
“If you haven’t been on a bus for a while, hop on, join your neighbors and visit these businesses,” he said.
The free rides are available from 4:30 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.
The bus routes covered by the project all run on Central — the 66, 766 Rapid Ride Red Line, 777 Rapid Ride Green Line and the 790 Rapid Ride Blue Line.
Sanchez proposed earlier this week that the free bus fare last throughout construction of the ART project — which will continue until late next year —but councilors narrowly rejected the bill.
The program announced Friday is more limited. It will last only through Jan. 8.
The city expects the free fares to cost about $30,000.
The construction on Central is part of a project to improve bus service. The city is building a $119 million network of bus-only lanes and bus stops in the middle of the street.
The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project is largely funded by the federal government, though there is litigation aiming to halt the project and the final federal grant has not yet been funded.