ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – City leaders on Monday night approved keeping free fares on the Central Ave.-based Albuquerque Rapid Transit and Sun Vans. Proponents said it’s a step in the right direction, especially for those who depend on the Sun Vans.

The Zero Fares Pilot Program, which offered free rides for ABQ Ride, ART, and Sun Vans, started at the beginning of 2022. For months, councilors have debated whether to end the program early over concerns about safety on city buses. Supporters argued reinstating the fares would affect the most vulnerable riders. Instead, councilors agreed to keep the program for now but ramp up security. The ordinance does that by giving security officers more authority to enforce rules on buses and making it a specific crime to disobey them.

Local leaders spoke Monday night on the need to protect security officers and make sure they have the proper training. “Pretty much everything we’re doing on the transit, we’re not trained for. It’s not because the officers don’t want to do it, it’s because of the lack of training we’ve been given over the years,” said Lewis Cisneros, Albuquerque Officers Union.

The ordinance makes Central Ave.-based ART buses and Sun Vans permanently free. The Zero Fares Pilot Program ends in June. Councilors say they will continue working on how to expand zero fares to all ABQ Ride buses by then and more ways to make the buses safer.