Sun Tran, Sun Link fares in Tucson remain free for the time being

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Whether to keep Tucson transit fares free or to start charging again is a debate going on at city hall.

The city made all fares free when the pandemic hit two years ago to help people during a financial crunch but now the question is should they remain that way.

The Mayor and Council spent an hour discussing whether to do so at it’s biweekly study session but did not reach a decision. But some ideas are on the table.

The issue, of course, is money. It costs the city $9.1 million to keep the rides free.

In a recent survey, the city found 77% of the respondents wanted to keep it free and 47% said they would ride it if it was free. The University of Arizona students, who are big fans of Sunlink, the streetcar, have peppered the city with reasons they’d like it to remain free.

“Who will help us provide the nine point one million dollars in order for us to be able to keep the system free,” Mayor Regina Romero asked her fellow members of the council. “What keeps me up at night is a yearly commitment to pay for that nine point one million dollars.”

Some have suggested having the University help pay for it since the students are beneficiaries. Others suggested looking for other partners whose employees ride the transit system in big numbers. Still others are looking at a hybrid system.

“We absolutely have riders who can afford help support the system,” said Ward 6 Council member Steve Kozachik. “Give them a safe clean reliable product and an easily understandable product and they should be willing to do that but others who can’t afford to pay ‚identify a funding source to keep if free for those who can’t afford to pay.”

The council did not set a target date for a decision.