ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Starting July 1, everyone can ride the bus for free in Albuquerque for a year. City councilors want to give low-income riders a break and try to recruit some new passengers.

The money to cover the lost fares was set aside in the budget when it was passed last month and the city’s transit director said the department will follow their lead in making it happen. “Starting [in] July, we have paid for everyone’s fares through that $3 million, so it should occur in July, however, we’re just reaffirming through this ordinance that we won’t be collecting fares,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Lan Sena.

“We’re going to make it work, if city council gives us the money to operate free fares on the pilot program that they’re going to give to us for, then we’re going to do our best to make it run as smoothly and efficiently as we can,” said Danny Holcomb, Transit Director with CABQ.

The city’s transit department said it costs about $32.5 million to run the bus system. Pre-COVID, the city only collected about $3.5 million in fares a year.

City Councilor Sena said she wants better access for all, especially in lower-income communities. The four councilors behind the idea also want to convince people to give the bus a try. 

People had mixed reactions about the free fares and about ditching their cars for the bus. “Awesome, let’s do it! We need more people on the ARTs and less people driving. I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Veiga Osicky.

“I’ll actually go electric before I start using public transit, it’s just one of those things. I want to be environmentally conscious, I want to be aware of that type of thing and at the same time I’m kind of independent,” said Max Pruden.

According to the ordinance, people will be charged fares for special events like Balloon Fiesta. Even though the money is already set aside to cover the lost fares, city council needs to pass a law to establish this free fare pilot program.

They should vote on this later this month. The city’s Sun Vans, which cater to the elderly and disabled, will also be free for a year.