GRTC to remain ‘Zero Fare’ through part of 2025
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - GRTC will remain “Zero Fare” through part of 2025 through state grant funding while the company studies the impact “Zero Fare” has on the riders and the community.
GRTC was awarded $8 million in state grant funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to conduct the study between July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2025. The City of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University will match the grant funding.
The “Zero Fare” could continue past 2025 if there is enough local support.
GRTC initially suspended fare collection in March 2020 to limit contact between riders and drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to federal COVID relief funding, GRTC extended the fare collection suspension through June 30, 2022.
Under the state grant, GRTC will study the benefits of Zero Fare, impacts and sustainability, along with alternative fare collection methods.
“Pre-COVID, GRTC collected approximately $5 million annually from local bus riders commuting to or from essential jobs – many of whom were living at or below poverty. Transit fares maintained a very real barrier keeping these members of our community from accessing critical resources such as food, health care, education, and better paying jobs,” GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timms said. “Under Zero Fares, our most vulnerable neighbors have no longer been forced to choose between the cost of transportation and the cost of food or medicine. They now have ready access to these essential resources through transit service, and they have the opportunity to spend their hard-earned dollars directly at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or the pharmacy instead of the GRTC farebox – putting those dollars directly back into the local economy.”
According to GRTC, most riders have annual incomes of less than $25,000, with a quarter of riders making under $10,000 a year, with riders spending about $20 a week on fares. As of Nov. 2021, GRTC’s ridership exceeds pre-pandemic ridership. A recent study attributes the quick recovery to a redesign that connects riders to more jobs and the breakdown of financial barriers.
“To reduce barriers to transit for low-income individuals, the TRIP Zero Fare pilot will allocate $8 million in funding over the next three years to support system-wide zero fare for GRTC,” stated Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “DRPT evaluated and prioritized projects based on CTB criteria and recommended funding to GRTC based on the defined and quantifiable measures of success, the collaborative development environment as evidenced by the support of various regional partners and local organization, and the ease of implementation. These pilot projects will provide increased access to our essential workforce who rely on public transportation for employment, education, healthcare, and basic human needs.”
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