Advocates say the impending return of fares for all buses and ADA para-transit on April 1 will mean people will have a difficult time getting to their jobs and medical appointments, so they are hoping the state can find a way to continue the suspension of bus fares.
“We are really worried that it is going to be a big April Fools joke on thousands and thousands of people who ride the buses,” said Jay Stange, Transport Hartford Academy Coordinator at the Center for Latino Progress. “We have a feeling that people are going to have a hard time getting to jobs, getting to medical appointments and getting to school.”
Stange said he hopes Gov. Ned Lamont will be able to make the necessary investment to keep the program going.
Lamont’s office countered, however, that the state legislature did approve several bills that Lamont signed into law.
The initial “fare free” period was from April 1, 2022, through June 30, 2022, which was extended to Dec. 1, 2022 and then again extended to March 30, 2023.
“CTDOT has been informed by the federal government that federal restrictions prevent the state from extending the suspension of fares for any longer than 12 months, which is why the state is required to end this program on March 31, 2023,” according to an email from David Bednarz, a spokesman for Lamont.
According to the state Department of Transportation, ridership increased by 1.4 million from January 2022 to December 2022, during which the fares were free.
Stange said increased ridership numbers, along with the number of low-income households that do not have a vehicle, means many people have come to rely on those buses for transportation. Based on that, he says that reintroducing fares could mean a roadblock for some that may lead to a serious cut in their income.
Stange said that in three Hartford neighborhoods – Frog Hollow, South Green, and Parkville – a third of the households don’t have a car, while another third have only one car for the entire household, according to Stange.
He added that he knows of one Hartford area woman who works four housekeeping jobs and uses the bus to get around.
“She is supporting her family with that work,” Stange said, and adding another $10- to $15-a-day expense could seriously cut into what she brings home.
Legislators had been considering a bill, HB 6743, to require the Department of Transportation to conduct a fare equity analysis to evaluate the proposed implementation of permanent fare-free public bus transportation services in the state. However, it appears that the bill is about to die in committee.
Angel Serrano, an organizer with Connecticut Citizen Action Group, testified in favor of the bill during a recent public hearing.
“In the past, people had to walk miles because they simply did not have the cash to pay. Bus fare might not seem to be that much but to a person in poverty it makes a big difference,” Serrano testified.
State officials are encouraging riders to purchase tickets ahead of time to avoid lines at customer service centers. For more information about fare options, visit CTtransit.com. CT DOT also advises residents to visit CTrides.com for commuting information.