ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city’s spent years trying to figure out if Albuquerque bus rides should be permanently free. After weighing concerns over safety and cost, some councilors believe they have the information they need to make a final decision.
Launched in 2022, the city’s Zero Fares pilot program for city buses has faced its fair share of questions around safety. Now, nearly two years into the program, city councilors are considering whether zero fares should be permanent.
It comes after a Transit Department study suggested violent crime did not increase during the 2022 program.
“It did show us that we have some other challenges on our system, including keeping the stops cleaner,” said Albuquerque City Council President Pat Davis.
Part of the city’s theory is that cleaner stops can help with overall safety. According to the report, money used for bus pass programs could be better spent cleaning roughly 2,700 stops.
ABQ RIDE also studied a possible bus pass program, but the city believes that would cost nearly $2 million to run and wouldn’t be smooth.
“It actually made it a lot harder for bus drivers who had to argue with people to be sure they had the right change, or do you have an expired pass,” said Davis.
A KRQE investigation last year highlighted crime on buses including fights between riders and drivers. The city has increased bus security while APD is also cracking down on people hanging out and using drugs at bus stops.
“We meet with them on a weekly basis with different area command and helping to just share information about where we’re seeing activity,” said ABQ RIDE Transit Director Leslie Keener.
Transit said it’s the Central Avenue route where many incidents on buses occurred last year, but they found most crimes were happening off of the buses at bus stops.
“You wouldn’t need a pass to be there. Really, the zero fares, as far as that impact goes, hasn’t had much impact,” said Keener.
Councilors are set to vote on Wednesday to make the zero fares permanent.