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City, Community Advocates Announce Free Fares for Students, Seniors, Veterans to Mark Transit Equity Day

City will again offer free bus fare to all on Rosa Parks’ birthday, February 4th

ALBUQUERQUE – When civil rights icon Rosa Parks refused a driver’s request to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955, she set off a nationwide struggle for equity that continues to this day and put a spotlight on the critical role affordable, accessible public transportation plays in a community’s equity efforts.

This year, Albuquerque once again honors Rosa Parks and the push to improve public transit in Albuquerque with Transit Equity Day, on February 4—Parks’ birthday. And at a press conference today Mayor Tim Keller joined department directors from Transit and Equity & Inclusion and community groups to announce that in addition to current free fares for veterans, the City will soon offer permanent free fares for seniors over the age of 65 and students under the age of 25. As always, fares for everyone will be free tomorrow, February 4th.

“The ability to reliably and affordably get where you need to go—whether you’re traveling for work, school, to run errands, or to engage in community—is essential to our work to make Albuquerque a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” said Mayor Keller. “From free fares for APS students to holding the line on the lowest basic rates of any major city, our work to make transit more accessible is a key part of what it means to build a more equitable Albuquerque.”

“The city is excited to continue its conversation about these free fares: It’s something that has been building since last year,” said Danny Holcomb, Transit Director. “We hope to implement this as soon as possible, to promote equity and to encourage people to ride the bus.”

“Access to reliable transit is the single most important factor for economic stability. Without it, people without cars cannot get to school or work very reliably,” said Michelle Melendez, Director of the Citys Office of Equity and Inclusion. “It is especially important to hear directly from transit users and workers about their needs and ideas to make our public transit more safe, affordable and reliable for our City’s economic future.”

To raise awareness about people’s rights and to attract riders from all backgrounds, the Department of Equity and Inclusion is posting several new posters on ABQ RIDE buses. They advertise how to report discrimination in five languages to 311. Interpretation is available year-round.

“In the summer of 2018 and 2019 Together 4 Brothers organized with the City to provide free summer bus passes and since March 2019, youth 18 years and younger have had free bus fares,” said Mahdi Hossaini, a youth leader with Together 4 Brothers. “We’re excited to collaborate with the City and Mayor Keller to make the free fares permanent and also add 19 to 24 years old and seniors 65 years old and older.”

“We want to support and join the City in celebrating Transit Equity Day tomorrow on February 4,” said Patricia Salisbury, who sits on the Citys Transit Board. “Not only is February 4 Rosa Parks’ birthday, the whole month of February is Black History Month, where we recognize and remember famous African American heroes and people who have contributed so much to making history in America. Rose Parks is one of our African American heroes, who helped end racism discrimination on public transportation. We’re so happy that Albuquerque will be celebrating by allowing everyone to ride free tomorrow on buses and Sun Vans.”   

“In Albuquerque alone, Google data indicated visitation to parks and open spaces increased 51 percent, compared to pre-pandemic times,” said Rachel Swanteson-Franz, a program coordinator with The Wilderness Society. “So we need to make sure now and post-pandemic that we keep working together to support our transit riders, transit system and collaborate on ways to increase access to parks via transit.”

Mahbooba Pannah, from the New Mexico Asian Family Center, called for a continued push for safety and inclusion for all riders, saying, “I want to recognize that the city works very hard to translate a lot of documents. But still we struggle. The woman, the refugee community, they struggle to recognize the bus system. But still it’s not for everyone in the family. We ask for bus access for everyone. We ask the city to make Albuquerque transit safe for our community and more accessible.”

Enrique Cardiel, from the Bernalillo County Community Health Council, said, “We have a lot of barriers between folks who have privilege and people who don’t in Albuquerque, and this is one way to break it down. When you’re on the bus, there’s really a lot less pretense. It’s an opportunity to interact with people in ways that you don’t always get to. And also to meet people you wouldn’t meet any other way.”

Along with free fare announcements today, the City of Albuquerque highlighted policies put in place over the last three years to increase access to buses for all, including:

  • Keeping most routes running through the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Continuing the $1 basic fare since 2002; the lowest fare of any city Albuquerque’s size
  • Deeply discounting passes for low income riders through different agencies
  • Providing free Summer Youth Bus Passes to youths ages 9 to 25
  • A new ABQ RIDE+ app offering features in both English and Spanish
  • Offering free Wi-Fi on ART buses (provided Wi-Fi hot spots for neighborhoods for online learning in 2020)

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ABQ RIDE is Albuquerques principal form of public transportation.  It daily logs an average of 120,000 Passenger Miles on its buses.