/ Modified sep 22, 2020 6:53 p.m.

Council weighs abolishing fares on buses, streetcars

Fares were suspended in March.

Sunlink streetcar3 The Sunlink streetcar has been in operation 5 years.
Meredith O'Neil/AZPM

Tucson's SunTran buses and SunLink streetcars will continue to offer free rides through the end of the year. But the city council is talking about abolishing fares permanently.

What started out Tuesday as a discussion of whether to resume collecting fares on Sept 25, turned into a plan to do away with fares for good. The city transit system has been using federal COVID-19 relief money to subsidize rides, as a way of reducing interaction between drivers and passengers. The relief money is running out, but council member Paul Cunningham says the city should look for funding partners, the way Salt Lake City does to keep part of its light rail system free-to-ride.

"The university and the Latter-day Saints Church and the city and the county all pool a special fund, and it's just easier to do that than to sit there and collect money and count it," Cunningham said.

Mayor Regina Romero endorsed Cunningham's idea of going fare-free. "We should look at models that other cities throughout the United States have been moving towards, which is a universal free ridership for the benefit of the community," she said.

In the short term, the council directed the city manager to look for about five million dollars to keep bus and streetcar rides free until year's end. That's how much the city collected in fares over the same period last year.

Even without fares, bus ridership is down thirty percent from last year, and streetcar ridership is off more than sixty percent - a reflection of the pandemic's affect on the local economy.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
Arizona Public Media broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents. Arizona Public Media and AZPM are registered trademarks of the Arizona Board of Regents.
The University of Arizona