NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The free rides are just about over on Connecticut buses. For the last year, buses have been fare free. That ends tonight, and many riders are sorry to hear it.
“They should keep it as free because, to be honest, it does help the community get to where we have to get to,” said New Haven mother Karen Rodriguez, taking a bus with her kids.
Federal funding is to thank for the free year, and the Department of Transportation says federal rules are why it’s ending.
“Fares are returning tomorrow, April first,” said CT DOT Spokesman Josh Morgan. “That’s due to federal regulations which say any bus pilot program, any fare pilot program, cannot exceed 12 months time.”
“I wish they would extend it. It helped a lot of people,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of people because I know a lot of people myself that are upset because it’s ending.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker is not happy about it either.
“This is a great thing to have free bus fare for our residents, and I’ll continue to advocate for that,” Elicker said.
Buses stopped collecting fares at the height of the pandemic. Then fares came back. Then they went away as part of the deal that also suspended the state gas tax. That is coming back, too.
A CT Transit supervisor tells News 8 that every supervisor and manager is going to be putting in extra hours over the next few days trying to deal with any customer complaints. Word is definitely getting out. On the New Haven green, there were long lines on Friday as people were already buying monthly passes.
“I understand the state has some challenges,” Mayor Elicker said. “My hope is that we work collaborate with the state to find a pathway in the future where the state can go back to free bus fare.”
The state is doing a study about why fares are different in different places.
“So, we’re looking at how we can unify that structure, what additional discount programs could be available and tie into what the impacts of fare free were over this last year,” Morgan said.
But The DOT said you should not expect free rides to come back any time soon.