Local Bus Riders Express Frustration with Return of Bus Fares

by Megan Vaz and Yash Roy, Yale Daily News, April 6, 2023

Connecticut buses bore a new message for riders this weekend: “Fares restart April 1.” After almost one year of free public buses across the state due to a surge in oil prices and record-high costs of living, travelers across the state had to resume paying fares for buses on Saturday. Connecticut legislation to extend free public bus fares stalled as New Haven State Rep. Roland Lemar, who co-chairs the state legislature’s transportation committee, argued the state did not have enough funding to pay for the program.

Proponents of extending the state’s free public bus system have argued that the program helped alleviate cost-of-living worries as Connecticut residents have faced inflation of six to eight percent, an average rent increase of roughly 20 percent and stagnating wages. Moreover, local bus riders have expressed frustration over the state’s decision to deprioritize accessibility while managing one of its largest budget reserves in state history.

“Statistically, this also translates to disproportionately punishing poor people, women, young people, seniors, and Black and brown people,” said local bus rider Stasia Brew-Kaczynski. “We need authority figures to stop thinking with car-brains and start looking for every opportunity to reward and incentivize people moving without private cars and trucks.”

Now that the fare-free program has expired, most travelers must pay $6.40 for an All-day 2 Zones pass, with prices increasing for each additional zone. Riders may also purchase 31-day passes, which range from $108.80 to $204 based on the traveling zone range…

According to the nonprofit Datahaven’s 2023 Community Wellbeing Index for the greater New Haven area, about 34 percent of local adults making under $30,000 per year experience “transportation insecurity” without reliable access to a vehicle. Black and Latino households are far more likely to lack access to a personal vehicle, especially in those without any employed adults.

Some bus riders told the News that they are experiencing homelessness and heavily relied on the fare-free program for access to food, job opportunities and medical appointments.

King Latif Manns, an unhoused person who rode the bus regularly before fares were announced, told the News that he thinks fares will hurt those of lower socioeconomic classes most. Latif Manns has stopped riding the bus since the change.

“I feel they should think about how many people they were helping and how many people suffer at the fact that the buses started faring people,” Latif Manns said. “It’s tax money, but also, we, the people, are the taxpayers.”

[Article can be read in its entirety at  yaledailynews.com/blog/2023/04/06/local-bus-riders-express-frustration-with-return-of-bus-fares/]

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