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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

ABQ's 'Zero Fares' pilot bus program on track to become permanent

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Monday, October 16, 2023   

Free buses may soon become a basic city service in Albuquerque.

A vote to make a pilot "Zero Fares" rider program permanent is set to come before the City Council.

Tammy Fiebelkorn, a city councilor, said the program has had benefits for all transit riders, but especially transit-dependent riders, youth, seniors, essential workers, families and people with disabilities.

She noted the positive financial effects and practicality.

"It's faster," Fiebelkorn pointed out. "The stops can be faster because you just get on. The bus drivers are safer. There's not that forced interaction with folks over fares or passes or show your ID or any of those things."

Initially, the pilot program was meant to last a year. After several extensions, the program would become permanent with majority vote from city council. Fiebelkorn noted a recent analysis showed prior to free fares, one nonprofit was spending more than 30% of its annual budget to provide bus fares to its clients.

Isa Burks has been using the bus to get back and forth to work and said the free fares help him keep more of his paycheck.

"It's a lot easier, a lot less stressful," Burks explained. "I don't have to worry about the monthly bus passes and all of that. It made it a little easier to get back and forth; get to work and stuff."

The city estimated 75% of bus riders have an annual income of less than $25,000. In addition to offering a work solution, Fiebelkorn emphasized if you do not have a vehicle, you can still get to parks and participate in many of the fun things Albuquerque offers.

"There was a young man that lives in the south valley that had never gone to the mountains and gone hiking until free fares," Fiebelkorn observed. "That is shocking and sad, but I'm so glad that we're able to provide that opportunity to him now."

She added the pilot program was originally supported with help from a federal grant. If approved by city council, future costs, estimated at $3 million to $4 million per year, would become part of the city's $1.4 billion annual budget.


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