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Advocates Calling for CT Transit to Remain Fare Free

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Thursday, March 9, 2023   

Transit advocates are calling on Connecticut's General Assembly to keep the state's public transit system free.

In April 2022, Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation suspending collection of bus fares throughout the state, but the program ends March 31.

The General Assembly is reviewing a bill to require the state's Department of Transportation to conduct a fare equity analysis, to study making fare-free public transportation permanent in Connecticut. The bill might not pass before the suspension of fares ends.

Jay Stange, coordinator for Transport Hartford Academy, wants the bill to be amended to delay the program's end. He described how fare-free transit helps Connecticut bus riders.

"Bus service that's free and equitable is a means of reducing transportation expenses for individuals and families," Stange pointed out. "Especially, amid unstable gas prices right now, growing inflation, and the continuing impacts of the pandemic."

The bill had a public hearing at which most Connecticut residents gave support, not only for the bill, but also for keeping the state's public transportation free permanently. Opposition to the bill came from one of the state's transit districts, which did its own study on eliminating fares, and found the costs outweigh the benefits.

One challenge Stange noted has been convincing legislators setting aside $32 million to $40 million is important for the program. This funding would keep it alive for another year as the fare equity analysis gets underway, should the bill requiring it pass. He feels public transportation needs to be a public good for anyone who needs it.

"We are making the case to folks who make the decisions about appropriations in Connecticut that this is a good and worthwhile investment," Stange asserted. "Fare-free transit should be a public good like going to the library or getting EMS service."

During the pandemic, public transportation saw massive ridership declines due in part to social distancing rules and a lack of knowledge about COVID-19, but data from the American Public Transportation Association shows bus ridership has been steadily increasing, though it has not reached pre-pandemic levels.


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