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Trump case expected to head to the jury today; IN food banks concerned about draft Farm Bill; NH parents, educators urge veto of anti-LGBTQ+ bills; Study shows a precipitous drop in migratory fish populations, in US and worldwide.

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Actor Robert DeNiro joins Capitol Police officers to protest against Donald Trump at his New York hush money trial as both sides make closing arguments. And the Democratic Party moves to make sure President Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

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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