A couple of Albuquerque City Council members want to stop the current zero fare bus program and make people who can’t afford to ride the bus apply for a free pass.
Free Fares, or Not?
Councilors Klarissa Peña and Dan Lewis co-sponsored a bill to reinstate city bus fares to $1 and make free passes available by application. Councilor Peña had been a proponent of last year’s ordinance to eliminate all bus fares for a trial basis. A budget of $3 million was approved in last year’s budget and in this year's budget to continue the program through June 2023.
Their bill says the changes are needed due to recent increases in violence and other security issues among some of those riding the buses. Peña has said most passengers behave themselves but some do not and the calls for service data show that calls have increased.
Proponents of zero fare say ending the program is another way to prevent some citizens, who are on the fringes and who have difficulties accessing services, from using public transportation.
There are lots of moving parts to these changes. The measure needs to be vetted and will be debated at a future meeting, where there will be lots of comments from both sides of this complicated issue.
Another river crossing?
A couple of interesting tidbits during the last few Council meetings have dropped in the past meetings. The first one that popped my bowl of popcorn off my lap was when one Councilor said the city would have to take a look at another river crossing in the future.
Anyone trying to get to the West Side at rush hour knows this is something that is needed. Looking down at a map, the most likely area is between the Montaño Bridge and the Central Avenue Bridge. The Village of Los Ranchos extends north of Montaño, and takes in part of the Paseo del Norte crossing. You can bet your stash of green chile that the Village will not allow any more river crossings. This topic will get lots of people feisty on both sides of the issue and the river.
The other tidbit was the idea for Albuquerque to annex the land under the Montaño Bridge. Apparently, the Montaño Bridge was a city project but the land under it was never annexed to Albuquerque from what appears to be Bernalillo County. This river crossing has a colorful history of court cases, protests over the idea and the cutting down of a beloved old cottonwood tree that I think was named Naomi.
This idea came up in regards to problems that arose during the last City Council redistricting efforts where districts are required to have a “contiguous” strip of land to form the district. With the recent changes, Council District 2, which has been known as the Downtown district, now goes over the Rio Grande along the south side of Interstate-40 to take in parts of the West Side. By annexing the land under Montaño Bridge, then the city could cross there to adjust future boundaries for any population changes. Seems simple enough, but if history repeats itself, then nothing is simple when it comes to the Montaño Bridge.
For more information about Albuquerque City Council happenings log on to cabq.gov. The next regular meeting is at 5 pm on Oct. 17.
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