FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Fresno’s City Council voted Thursday to pass the Zero Fare Clean Air Act, effectively making the city’s FAX bus fare-free.
The legislation was authored by Councilmember Tyler Maxwell.
After a lengthy session that heard public comment in favor and against the measure, the City Council voted 5-2, with Councilmembers Bredefeld and Karbassi against the motion.
“It’s a regressive tax on the poorest people in the City of Fresno,” Maxwell said of the current $1.25 bus fare prior to the vote.
Maxwell’s legislation is aimed at making transportation more equitable in Fresno. The free fares will begin March 1 and last until the local COVID-19 emergency orders are lifted. Maxwell says the free fares will help those who rely on public transit amid COVID-19, but local transit workers raised concerns prior to the vote.
“We do have a homeless problem, we have a drug problem, we have a violent crime problem here,” said bus driver Lydia Chavez during the virtual public comment. “And once people hear that this bus is free, that’s exactly what we’re going to have.”
Councilmember Garry Bredefeld echoed the concern of the bus drivers.
“The homeless will get on the bus, and they will ride around all day, and some of them are already under the influence of drugs,” Bredefeld said before the vote. “We know from our police department that some of them carry weapons.”
Councilmember Maxwell’s team confirmed after the vote that the City Council also passed an additional policy outlawing continuous riding to ensure driver safety. Maxwell feels the idea of those experiencing homelessness riding busses is a misconception. For Maxwell, it is personal.
“My own father experienced homelessness, he was on and off, and he relied on public transportation as his main means of transportation,” Maxwell said. “It’s people like my dad out there that don’t have that disposable income, that would benefit tremendously from an opportunity like this.”
Maxwell added in a statement that the city will use federal and state COVID-19 emergency funds to support the program.