Fresno’s busses are temporarily free, but the plan could be made permanent

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FRESNO, California (KSEE) – As of Monday, Fresno’s bus service is free on both fixed-route FAX service and the handy-ride paratransit vehicles.

This temporary service was approved by the Fresno City Council on Feb. 18, in an effort to help residents experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s something many members of the city council have been pushing for. If it works, the zero-fare system could stick around long-term.

Residents like Frank Myers – who uses the Fresno Area Express to get anywhere and everywhere – say the elimination of bus fares makes a big difference in his budget.

“This will probably save me a good $60 every two weeks. I really truly think it’s a blessing,” he said.

Councilmember Tyler Maxwell has been fighting for fare-free services for months and believes the system will benefit low-income residents, the environment, and Fresno’s economy.

“We know that 77% of our bus riders make less than $20,000 a year. When those folks don’t have to pay a fare to get on the bus, they could use that money here in the local economy, by eating, shopping, paying for rent,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Dyer says the fare-free program is set to last for three to four months, but the city and the council are looking into ways to make it long-term. 

According to the mayor, the city makes roughly $6 million from bus fares every year. In order to offset any financial loss the city might experience from a fare-free bus system, officials need to find new revenue streams by the time the city council meets again to discuss the system in May.

“That could be through organizations, hospitals, whoever would want to fund bulk passes… The last thing we need to do in our city is put our finances at risk as a result of a zero-fare transit system,” he said.

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