Would You Ride the Bus--If it Were Free?

Would you ride the bus to work--if it were free?

Dropping fares for VIA Metro Transit bus rides in some areas is one idea Mayor Nirenberg discussed at a transportation and tourism summit in Denver this week, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

He says Denver is floating the ides.

"They use free service in some areas that are high density and high traffic, such as their downtown and civic spaces," Nirenberg said.

VIA has been grappling with several ideas on how to get middle class commuters out of the cars and take the bus in their morning commute.  They include increasing service to lower wait times, and experimenting with a program called 'The Last Mile' where an Uber-type van or car takes passengers from the bus stop to their eventual destination.

Only about 20% of VIA's annual operating budget comes from the fare box, so free service would not be the financial hit that you might expect, and Nirenberg suggested that funding could be made up by selling more advertising on buses.

But VIA has resisted the idea, saying it would make buses a hangout for the homeless, and that would lead to far fewer middle class commuters choosing the bus.

Nirenberg says in Denver, not every route is  free, but the program is used on certain routes.

"Its something that has been discussed periodically over the years, certainly along the high traffic routes, like along Market and Commerce, for example, this is something that might work," he said.

The transportation and tourism conference that Nirenberg attended in Denver is set to take place in San Antonio in 2023.

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