ABQ city councilors propose changes to zero-fare bus program

[anvplayer video=”5144300″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Right now – if you hop on a bus in Albuquerque it won’t cost you anything and you won’t need to show an ID. However, a new city ordinance proposed by councilors Klarissa Peña and Dan Lewis would change the zero-fare program to require riders to obtain a bus pass in order to ride for free.

After this plan was announced, multiple nonprofit organizations voiced their concerns on how a pass program would impact the work they do every day

“It makes it really difficult for our clients when they have to go through extra barriers and bureaucracy just to access bus fares,” said Rachel Biggs, chief strategy officer for Healthcare for the Homeless.

Bringing back fares and passes would distract from the work these nonprofits were created to do.

“Also you are asking nonprofit organizations to use up their resources to provide the overhead for those pass programs when those individuals and the staff in those nonprofits could focus on their vision and their business mission,” said Janus Herrera, Health Promotions specialist for the Health Equity Council.

They added that this ordinance is trying to tackle too many things in one bill, saying not all of the problems seen on the bus are related.

“As they are talking about needing more maintenance and cleaner bus stops, those are things they have the power to fix right now if they invest in our public transportation system they do not need to take away and make it harder for people to access a public good,” said Rachel Swanteson-Franz, Wilderness Society program manager.

They argued these passes will become one more thing riders will have to remember to grab before they head to the bus stop.

“Pre zero fare we have heard stories from boys and young men saying they have been denied access to the bus because they forgot their school id and often they are not believed to be young people so they wouldn’t have the same access anymore if zero fares would disappear,” said Baruch Campos, program coordinator for Together for Brothers.

KOB 4 reached out to councilors Lewis and Peña to get their response to these concerns.

Councilor Lewis said in a statement:

“The bill doesn’t not prohibit people from riding the bus for free everyone who wants a pass will be able to get one. [Nonprofits] will also have the ability to be a part of the pass system so they will be more involved in helping the people they serve ride the bus free with a pass.”

Peña added:

“Zero fares will remain. This ordinance ensures additional safeguards are in place so the city could provide a level of confidence that our public transit is safer for everyone who rides the bus.”

Organizers say they do agree with parts of the ordinance, like increasing bus driver wages and better maintenance. But they say that can be done without changing the zero-fare program.

Councilors are scheduled to consider the new proposal on Nov. 7.