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ABQ RIDE marks Transit Equity Day with Dedicated Seat to Rosa Parks

The department, community partners highlight the importance of public transportation

Friday, Feb. 4, 2022

Today is Transit Equity Day and to celebrate the City of Albuquerque Transit Department has dedicated a bus seat to Rosa Parks. Mayor Tim Keller also signed a proclamation declaring February 4, 2022 Transit Equity Day in honor of the civil rights icon. The City of Albuquerque is committed to always furthering access and equity in its public transit system.  

“In honor of Rosa Parks’ courage and her selfless dedication to social change, we are reserving a seat on the #66 Route in her memory,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “The seat is just a small homage to her legacy, but in Albuquerque we carry forward her belief that everyone has a right to equitable public transit.”

Transit Equity Day honors Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955. Organizers chose Parks’ birthday to make the connection between the Civil Rights Movement and people’s rights to public transportation.

“Previously, Transit Equity Day was celebrated by the department implementing free fares for the day; however, with the one-year Zero Fares Pilot Program in place, this year is a little different,” Stephanie Dominguez, Interim Transit Director of ABQ RIDE said. “We are putting a spotlight on Rosa Parks, the reason this day exists, and the impact that public transit has on the lives of so many.”

The City of Albuquerque is committed to always furthering access and equity in its public transit system. Prior to the implementation of Zero Fares, the Keller Administration advanced access and equity on ABQ Ride by: adding providing informational materials in a variety of languages; ADA improvements; and allowing seniors, students and veterans to ride free.

“Youth from all over Albuquerque use public transit as a main form of transportation," said Fernanda Banda Advocacy Organizer for New Mexico Dream Team. "Youth from mixed-status families where both parents are occupied with work and don’t have the time to offer a ride rely on access to public transit. I myself have used bus #54 to get to public libraries and the benefit of zero fares would have been so supportive then and now. I am one of the many others that have used public transportation everyday and I think it is of great service that the City of Albuquerque can take those steps to make it more accessible and intentional for all.” 

In a statement from the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico (TGRCNM), the organization states, “We honor and recognize the lives, works, and legacies of those who have come before us, like Rosa Parks, who worked tirelessly for equity, fairness and justice for their communities and the world. We, too, seek equity, fairness and justice for all of us. Zero Fares is a great way to continue the work, bringing those in our Albuquerque community the opportunity to travel safely to all their destinations.”

Albuquerque is one of the largest cities in America to implement zero fares on public transportation. With the Zero Fares Pilot Program now in place, the city is actively exploring the impact the program is having on creating a more equitable system. 

 “Young people in NMCAN programming frequently tell us that accessible transit is a huge barrier for persisting in education, work, and even just connecting with friends and family,” said Arika Sanchez, Direct of Policy and Advocacy, NMCAN. “We appreciate the City responding to these needs, and NMCAN is grateful to the individuals and community organizations who have been mobilizing and leading this collaborative effort over the years to ensure that equitable transit throughout Albuquerque is available to those who need it most.”

In a statement from David Barber, President, Friends of Valle de Oro NWR, and Nate Begay, Transportation Fellow, Valle de Oro NWR, the pair emphasize the importance of public transportation in underserved communities and note that the Pilot Program is a step toward a more equitable system, “With greater connections from public transportation, not only can people have reliable access to jobs, they also have opportunities to access recreational spaces and natural spaces in Albuquerque like the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge.”

“I voted to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill because it invests in our collective vision to improve the quality of life for every New Mexican,” said Rep. Melanie Stansbury. “We must work with our communities to make sure that the $366 million dollars coming to New Mexico to support public transportation, prioritize projects that invest in transportation equity. The pandemic highlighted the problems with our public transportation system, and its inequities. I applaud the city of Albuquerque’s zero fares initiative and our communities’ efforts to address transportation equity and look forward to our continuing collaboration.”

Sachi Watase, Executive Director for the New Mexico Asian Family Center, makes note of the importance of the City of Albuquerque’s Language Access Ordinance, that was signed into law in December 2021, has on the community. Watase calls it an “essential step towards equity” by providing public transportation information in various languages.

“So many members of our communities rely on public transportation to go to school, work, access healthcare, food, and places of warship,” Watase said. “Many of our clients and community members take the bus to our Center to receive critical social services that they would otherwise not be able to access. We are so happy to know that this year, Albuquerque public transportation is free for all riders, a huge step towards eliminating the inequitable barriers that far too many New Mexicans face.

The day also highlights the consequences of climate change. More people using public transportation means fewer pollutants from cars in the air. Currently, ABQ RIDE has one electric buses in its fleet and is looking to add more in the coming years.

“Health equity goes as far as the bus will take you,” reads a statement from the Health Equity Council. “A transit system designed with a destination of wellness, instead of disease, will prioritize communities to access our parks, walking paths, wellness programs, and our shared natural settings.”

The Central NM Group, Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club also offers its enthusiastically support of transit equity and its many benefits. “Public transit is among the most energy efficient modes of transportation in person-miles per gallon,” said Patrick Burton, Sustainable Mobility Chair, Central Group. “Resource conservation is greatest when buses are occupied to capacity and zero fee is making our buses available to everyone - no matter income.  We are cutting down on single person rides, opening up our transit system to new riders and cutting down on emissions. Let's keep this program going!"

"Transit equity improves the health and wellbeing of entire communities by helping connect the most transit dependent youth and families to essential everyday needs including healthcare, employment, education, and parks and outdoor spaces without having to worry about the ability to pay," said New Mexico State Rep. Kay Bounkeua. "The City of Albuquerque, in partnership with youth and community leaders, is paving the way for what should exist for all communities - a transportation system that is free for all riders."

For those looking to mark Transit Equity Day with a ride on one of ABQ RIDE’s buses, visit abqride.com for route information and download Transit the App.