Together for Brothers Wins Fare-Free Transit in Albuquerque

ABQ RIDE/Zero Fares logo

Credit: City of Albuquerque

On November 9, 2023, Albuquerque, New Mexico became the largest city in the United States to adopt permanent, free fares across their public transit system, ABQ Ride. The victory was the work of the aptly named Zero Fares Coalition, which is headed by Summit Foundation grantee Together for Brothers (T4B). Fare-free transit addresses social inequities in health and wealth tied to limited transportation access: not only academic and economic opportunity, but access to outdoor space, healthcare, and nutritious food options are all predicated on access to affordable transportation choices.

T4B mentors young men of color, providing them tools and pathways to lead their communities in organizing and power-building. The organization began its push for free public transportation in 2017 when T4B implemented a Health Impact Assessment (HIA); during that assessment, access to transportation came up as one of the biggest problems in their community. T4B works within communities where three-fourths of bus riders are low-income and, similarly, three-fourths of riders don’t have access to a car.

Over six years, T4B collaborated with more than 35 community partners in the Zero Fares Coalition to utilize the power of art, data, and storytelling to mobilize communities and win permanent Zero Fares in Albuquerque. The Coalition’s work began with advocacy for a two-year Zero Fare pilot program on bus rapid transit, fixed routes, and paratransit. A year into the pilot, data analysis showed ridership was up 49.4 percent, the pilot proved to be more cost-effective than imagined, and there was no meaningful correlation between fare-free bus service and crime rates. Following these reports and fierce advocacy by the Zero Fares Coalition, at the end of the pilot period, the Albuquerque City Council voted 6 to 3 to keep bus fares free.

By creating a viable public transportation alternative to cars, Summit believes reduced car ownership, and thereby emissions, is a key benefit of the Zero Fares program. The real-world nexus between transit cost subsidies, equity, and decreased car dependency is captured by this quote from an anonymous participant in T4B’s Zero Fares Survey:

“I love the Zero Fares program! I have started using the bus for most of my everyday transportation. Earlier this year my car was totalled in an accident. Losing our most reliable vehicle was hard on our household and the Zero Fares program has given me a viable option for getting around while saving money. I feel better not buying another car.”



Albuquerque Makes Final Push for Fare-Free Transit

 After Albuquerque Victory, Advocates Want To Take Fare-Free Transit Statewide

 The Transit Equity Movement Wins Their Biggest Zero Fare Victory Yet

T4B Zero Fares Community Report

Report says most crime did not increase due to Zero Fares pilot program

Partner Links:

Together for Brothers