City councilors to discuss zero-fare bus program during Wednesday meeting

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The debate over whether or not the city’s zero-fare bus program should be canceled will continue Wednesday night, but a few city councilors are now hopeful a solution is in sight.

Several councilors have put forward different bills laying out what they hope to see done with the Zero-Fare Program, and the goal is to find that middle ground.

“When Albuquerque introduced the free transit system two years ago, we were the largest transit system in the country to do it. But this year we have some councilors who want to look at how to repeal that and replace it with a pass system, and we are also trying to look at security issues,” said City Councilor President Pat Davis. 

Davis admits there are some security issues on the bus system and initially that is what councilor Klarissa Peña says she was trying to address.

“There is a small percentage of people doing these things on our public transportation system that are making others feel unsafe, and we have to do something about it. The pass system seemed like it wasn’t an attempt to addressing that,” said Peña. 

Peña co-authored a bill with councilor Dan Lewis that would modify the Zero-Fare Program, essentially replacing it with a Pass Base Program that would require people to register with the city to ride the bus for free. 

“Initially the transit system was supportive of the pass system then all of a sudden they are luke warm on it, so maybe they got more information and decided to change their mind. But we really need to all come together to figure out how to address the criminal element we are having on the buses,” Peña said. 

And that is the ultimate goal of Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

“So now after all three of these bills are on the table, we decided we need to get together and figure this out for the citizens of Albuquerque,” said Peña. 

Tonight the authors of the three bills will work out what parts of each bill will move forward and be a part of one unified bill.

“We have a compromise, and we know we need to add more money and resources to securing things like our bus stops, and protecting our bus drivers from interactions, and incidents that could get out of hand. So we are doing that tonight,” said Peña.

Now because this new “compromise bill” will essentially be a brand-new bill being introduced Wednesday, the city council will not vote on it during this meeting. Instead, it will be deferred once again to a future city council meeting for a final vote.