Albuquerque City Council Removes Bus Fares Citywide
On Monday, Albuquerque city council passed a zero-fare bus pilot program that will remove fares from all city buses for each passenger for the duration of a calendar year beginning January 1, 2022.
To address the concerns raised in the previous three postponements of the program, the Metro Security Division of the Ministry of Municipal Development made a presentation on the security of the program. They said additional security measures would be implemented, including funding to add 10 more security guards to the public transportation department.
Christopher Ramirez, Executive Director of the Transit Fairness Advocacy Group Together for the brothers (T4B) and chairman of the city’s transit advisory board, told the Daily Lobo that while T4B is very excited about eliminating bus fares, it does not support the addition of new agents.
“T4B will organize to change that and work with (departments of) community safety (as well as) family and community services, and other community partners to be part of a community safety plan,” said Ramirez. “Security guards are not the answer and will not keep us safe. “
Advocacy groups like T4B lobbied for a zero-fare ordinance and public transit equity for years. A few of these groups, along with the bill’s co-sponsor, Councilor Lan Sena, held a public press conference ahead of the meeting in which people explained how the tariff removal would benefit different communities. from the city.
Sierra Ludington, communications manager for NMCAN, which is a group dedicated to helping foster children succeed, told the Daily Lobo that one of the most common things people come to NMCAN for help with is how to buy a car; transportation is essential to get both an education. NMCAN youth organization coordinator Marco Martinez said it is also necessary to get down to business.
“We know that transportation is literally barrier # 1; they can’t do anything without having access to it, and so we know zero tariffs mean it’s one less obstacle for them to navigate, and we can really focus on education, … on advocacy – the things we really care about, ”Ludington said.
At the city council meeting itself, other community members showed up for the public commentary to support the ordinance and share stories about how public transit has benefited them, including the UNM student and T4B organizer Mahdi Hossaini. Hossaini, a refugee in New Mexico, said that in order to attend a high school with a refugee cohort program, he had to use public transportation to get there. Councilor Pat Davis, using this example, said public transit is crucial in supporting refugees.
“I think it will be perfect because now our newcomers are coming and they don’t have access to transport, so it’s really hard for them to get around town, and they don’t know what to do,” Hossani says. “And also, if they have to pay every day to go around town, it’s really very difficult for them.”
Advisors offered little debate on the issue at the meeting, with only a few clarifying questions on the security presentation. Sena said the percentage of bus incidents out of all public transport incidents involving disruption or violence is 23.7% and affects only a relatively small number of people considering the number of passengers who take the bus daily.
In her closing remarks, Sena stressed how important this is to the community, especially low-income people in the city who use public transportation on a daily basis to get to places like work or the grocery store.
“We all know and have heard the public comments from voters how much this impacted their lives… It’s a good start, and it will take 12 months to see how our ridership grows and how it supports our working families. Sena said.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter for Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @madelinepukite