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DIGGING DEEPER: Free rides on Sun Tran soon to end

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TUCSON - Over the past two months, those who rely on Sun Tran buses, or the Sun Link streetcar, as a method of transportation have been getting a free ride.

However, the free rides will soon come to an end.

Since late March, fares have been waived on all Tucson transit services.

According to the City of Tucson, the purpose of the waived fares was to create social distancing between the drivers and the passengers.  

As a result, fareboxes have not been accessible to those who utilize transportation services.

In addition, riders of the city's transit services have been required to enter and exit through the rear doors.

"It helps mainly because a dollar or two here, a dollar or two there, it adds up," said one passenger regarding the waived fares for Tucson's public transit.

The passenger added, "When you get a free bus ride, it's really convenient."

"Free bus rides during this crazy madness," said another passenger, "it's been a really good thing." 

With all the free rides, however, just how much revenue has the City of Tucson lost?

"At this time, the amount of revenue lost has not been determined as the fares are based on ridership," said Mike Graham, a spokesman for City of Tucson transportation, in a statement to News 4 Tucson.

Graham added that "there will be no consequence of having no farebox revenue for the past two months." 

The statement then went on to say, "the City of Tucson will use money from the FTA Cares Act for operational expenses."

The FTA, or Federal Transit Administration, Cares Act provides a total of $25 billion nationwide to transit agencies to help prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, is there a potential chance of increased fares to help deal with any lost revenue?

"There are no plans to raise fares at this time," Graham said. "However, Sun Tran plans to reinstate fares in mid-June following the installation of safety barriers on the buses between the drivers and the fareboxes."

The City of Tucson also said Sun Tran has been able to maintain all regular routes during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to do so.

Paul Birmingham

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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