“Free” transit works based on what?

At the Rio Grande Foundation we love arguing and debating public policy. That’s how we know we chose the right vocation. But sometimes people defend policy positions that have ZERO basis in fact and don’t even attempt to make an argument. Take the article from the “Zero Fares Coalition” which defends Albuquerque’s “free” bus fares.

The “zero fares” policy is said to benefit numerous groups of low-income people and that “healthy, thriving community relies on accessible, sustainable and safe public transportation for riders and drivers alike.”

Overall, there is zero data showing that zero fares has any positive impact for our community as a whole. What we DO know is that US transit ridership seems to be in a permanent decline and that holds for Albuquerque’s buses (as seen below).

No amount of word salad urging City Council to, “celebrate transit riders by establishing a public engagement forum to deeply explore community-involved public safety options that center lived experience” will make the case for bad policy.