Advocates push governor for expansion of fare-free bus program

The proposed legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Gianaris, seeks to allocate $45 million to increase bus frequency and another $45 million to expand the fare-free bus pilot.

Edric Robinson

Mar 22, 2024, 10:49 PM

Updated 122 days ago

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As the fare-free bus pilot program approaches its end this month, advocates are intensifying efforts to expand it. They cite significant improvements in public transportation ahead of congestion pricing.
"Every neighborhood would benefit from this $90 million investment," said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at the Riders Alliance.
Pearlstein emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating that Gov. Kathy Hochul has a crucial opportunity with the state budget to support proposed legislation aimed at enhancing bus service.
"We know that more frequent and more affordable service brings more riders onto the bus," Pearlstein said.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Gianaris, seeks to allocate $45 million to increase bus frequency and another $45 million to expand the fare-free bus pilot. This expansion would add at least 15 new fare-free bus routes, like the M116 route.
"If we’re going to charge the fee to get people out of their cars, we need to give them somewhere to go, and that means we need better bus service to make that happen," said Gianaris at a news conference last month.
Advocates have been actively rallying in Albany to garner support for the initiative. In a recent joint letter, Rep. Dan Goldman, alongside the Manhattan and Brooklyn borough presidents, urged the governor to prioritize the expansion in budget negotiations.
"I use it all the time," said Mark Topal, a Harlem resident.
Topal expressed hope that the fare-free program would become a permanent fixture.
“We live in a city where transportation is so difficult, so to be able to have anything that speeds up my commute is incredible,” said Topal.
In response to advocacy efforts, a spokesperson, John Lindsay, with the governor’s office said, “Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget makes record-setting investments in New York’s future while ensuring the state remains on a stable long-term fiscal trajectory, and she will work with the Legislature to craft a final budget that achieves these goals.”
“This $90 million will bring an unprecedented expansion in bus frequency and affordability complimenting all of the benefits of congestion pricing,” said Pearlstein.
As discussions continue, advocates remain optimistic about the potential expansion of the program. The budget must be approved by April 1.


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