Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

The City of Albuquerque will launch its Zero Fares Pilot Program on January 1, 2022. The program will no longer require passengers to pay for ABQ RIDE, ART, or Sun Van services. The Zero Fares Pilot Program is a result of four years of advocacy by T4B, community partners, the Transit Advisory Board, as well as city staff and elected officials 

“Access to safe, affordable public transit is one of the best ways for us to create a more inclusive, equitable city and an economy that works for everyone,” Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion Michelle Melendez said. “This zero-fare pilot will enable many more people to use the transit system to get to school, work and other places they need to go to participate fully in everything our City has to offer.”

The realization of Zero Fares Pilot Program is also the product of the City Council’s formalization of the use of the one-time, non-recurring appropriation of $3 million to fund the pilot program.

“ABQ RIDE is working hard to make sure this pilot program is successful,” Interim Transit Directo of ABQ Ride said Stephanie Dominguez said. “As a department, we remain committed to making public transportation accessible to everyone in our community. This pilot program helps fulfill that, in addition to the many other positive impacts we expect it will have.”

The executive director and founder, Christopher Ramirez of Together For Brothers, a community organization led by young men of color, expressed his enthusiasm for the years of advocacy that made this program happen. “I am proud that Albuquerque is moving one step forward towards transit equity and look forward to making this a permanent commitment to transit-dependent communities and bus riders,” said Ramirez.

ABQ Ride will collect data throughout 2022 on ridership numbers, security incidents, and cost to determine whether or not to continue the program beyond December 31, 2023