State officials say federal requirements forced the end of a twelve-month pilot program, and that the state doesn’t have the funding to continue providing free fares with the end of federal assistance.

2 minute read

April 20, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


CTtransit bus driving through snowy street in Norwalk, Connecticut

Miro Vrlik Photography / CTtransit bus in Norwalk, Connecticut

“After a year of free rides, CTtransit and other public transit buses ended a yearlong fare-free transit program originally introduced to expedite boarding during the COVID pandemic and help residents financially during tough economic times.” Writing for Connecticut Public Radio, Chris Polansky investigates the reasons why.

According to the state’s governor, “the federal government forced the popular program to expire” by mandating an equity study before free fares can resume. A spokesperson for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) said “Setting fares is a local – and in this case, state – decision,” but that the equity analysis, a “routine activity,” is indeed required to continue a fare-free program past twelve months.

The article details the back-and-forth between state DOT officials, the governor’s office, and state lawmakers. While lawmakers say a fare-free program isn’t possible without federal dollars and would lead to service reductions, “advocates for free transit service point to a projected better-than-$200 million surplus in the state’s Special Transportation Fund they believe could be used to cover that cost and keep the program rolling.”

Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said “funding the program would create a ‘significant hole’ in the STF [Special Transportation Fund], leaving it in the red a few years from now.” Governor Lamont’s office says it “remains committed to working with all stakeholders to increase service and ridership in a way that is accessible and fair to all.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2023 in Connecticut Public Radio

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