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Could Colorado Springs and Pueblo offer free bus rides, forever?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO)-- Could riding the bus around Colorado Springs and Pueblo be free, forever?

There have been no fares for the month of August, and based on how many people are using transit, it may be not out of the question.

Fare-free transit is a growing ideological concept in big cities, first implemented by Kansas City. Now, a large number of public transit agencies tried it in Colorado after a state government push, and the data shows a sharp increase in the number of people taking the bus in urban areas.

"There's a lot of different reasons that paying fares doesn't always gain a lot for the agency," said Ann Rajewski, the director of the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies. They helped multiple different bus systems roll out the August trial program.

In Colorado Springs, Mountain Metro saw a 48% increase in the number of people riding this August, as opposed to August 2021. In Pueblo, it's up 59%. Those numbers could be skewed to a degree because of higher COVID-19 transmission rates last year. Still, Rajewski adds it's a sign that people are ready to get back on busses.

"Those are dramatic increases for the month of August," she said. "And we do think that much of that increase has to do with this zero fare program that was put into place."

Rajewski says that fares aren't all that profitable for bus systems anyways, in fact, in some cases it costs more to collect fares than they actually are able to profit. 

An initial hesitation with offering free fares is people hopping on just to get warm. Rajewski says that the theory that the homeless will ride to nowhere has been disproved.

The Colorado Association of Transit Agencies does not have the authority to force cities to offer free bus rides. But Rajewski believes this data will have cities like Pueblo and Colorado springs going with the free ride.

"I think I would be surprised if they didn't, because I think if you're getting that sort of percentage increase, it's worthy of really discerning whether fares are a barrier or is this just a great summer program."

The increases in urban areas are significantly larger than in rural spots. 


KRDO reached out to representatives for transit in both Colorado Springs and Pueblo to see if the cities will continue the program long-term. A representative from Pueblo said it wanted to wait a few more days to look at data before commenting. The City of Colorado Springs has not returned a request for comment.

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Spencer Soicher

Spencer is the weekend evening anchor, and a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about him here.


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