Sun Tran has been offering free rides to its passengers since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, thanks to federal CARES law funds.
The free trips are expected to end at the end of this year, but Mayor Regina Romero says she wants to extend them at least until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2022.
“This is really something that is not only good for working families, students and the elderly who cannot afford a vehicle, but it is actually good for our economy and it’s good for climate resilience, ”Romero told Arizona Public Media.
Romero says his long-term vision is to work with public and private partners with the goal of making free travel permanent, as has been done in other cities such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Missoula, Montana.
Others, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, are launching a new free ride pilot program on January 1, 2022.
Romero says she will discuss the topic at the last board meeting of the year on Tuesday, December 21.
If the free fares are extended, it will save time for a longer conversation with Pima County, Pima Community College, the University of Arizona and other organizations and employers to study the potential of retaining free rides. indefinitely.
“I’ve gotten so many emails, calls and comments from the community that they actually jump on the bus and then on the streetcar to get to where they need to go, where before they weren’t even exploring it. ”Romero added.
Sun Tran says the city loses about $ 700,000 each month in revenue by not charging fares, but it has been able to afford free rides with federal money.
Romero says sources of funding and other issues will be part of the in-depth analysis of the possibility of making Tucson one of the country’s other free public transportation cities.