The Fresno City Council will vote Thursday on a plan to suspend bus fares throughout the city. Councilmembers Tyler Maxwell, Esmeralda Soria and Nelson Esparza are sponsoring the Zero Fare Clean Up Act. Maxwell says it addresses equity issues in Fresno, when it comes to reliable transportation. He believes the city is already way behind.
“We’re the largest city in the valley. We should be leading when it comes to major issues like transportation and not following in the footsteps of smaller cities like Clovis and Merced and Visalia who have already pioneered zero fare,” he says.
Like other cities in the Valley, Maxwell wants Fresno to suspend fares immediately, using CARES Act and FEMA dollars to fund services for the next five months. After that, Maxwell hopes that public and private partnerships with universities and hospitals will provide the bulk of funding over the next five years.
These institutions “want to help ensure that people are able to get vaccinated, that they’re able to get back to work,” he says.
Maxwell says the average bus rider in Fresno is a young woman of color with children on her way to work or school. Most riders who use the service are from central and south fresno. And he says the majority of riders have no access to a vehicle.
“Seventy-seven percent of our riders make less than $20,000/year; they’re living in abject poverty,” he says.
Eventually, he says, resources from Measure C, the sales tax measure to fund parks and transportation projects, could be used.
FAX currently receives most of its funding through federal and state grants that are dependent on the city bringing in revenue from transportation fares. Maxwell says. If the council moves forward with the plan, it will have to make up for that lost revenue to continue getting grants. Last year, Maxwell says FAX brought in $4 million from ridership fares.