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Free bus rides still up for debate

Adam Ziegenhals

Although it has been asked for and discussed as something the city would benefit from, El Paso is still far from implementing free bus rides for children or veterans.

The city of El Paso has been considering offering free bus rides for young people and veterans across the city. This comes after the Boys and Girls Club of El Paso asked city representatives to consider the proposal, as there are a lot of kids and teens across the city who can’t reach non-profit programs in different parts of town.

Although Sun Metro is aware of the proposal, they are still conducting research and are looking into the possibility.

“We know of the proposal, but as of right now, we have not finalized anything,” said Savannah Leeper, public affairs coordinator for Sun Metro. “Currently, we are only planning to offer free bus rides for non-profit summer camps, but we will continue to work with an eye towards the future.”

Despite the proposal being made by the Boys and Girls Club for teens, Leeper said that they are aware of how many UTEP students depend on the bus to get to school. Sun Metro will continue to work in order to improve routes, service and affordability for students.

“We are doing research on how implementing such a program would impact the city and those who use the bus, we are aware that other cities have such programs and we are looking into those as well,” Leeper said.

According to UTEP, bus ridership has averaged approximately 3,800 students per month, which is equal to roughly 16 percent of its 23,000-student population riding the bus.

“The bus is important, you can ride it all the time or just every so often, but the point is that it can be the difference from making it to school or not,” said Alejandro Artalejo, graduate student in construction management. “I used to ride the bus almost daily when I first came to UTEP. Later on I got my own vehicle, but even then you can’t completely forget the bus.”

Even if you have access to a vehicle or someone who may be willing to give you a ride, the bus might just end up saving your day.

“Life happens, cars break down or emergencies come up. But at the end of the day the bus is always there and in many instances, it’s the lifeline for many students,” Artalejo said.

Sun Metro currently offers free bus rides to children 5 and under. Students have discounted rates and in order to obtain a pass, students must present an accredited ID or must present proof of enrollment from the school, a valid state ID or driver’s license.

Perhaps the biggest concern surrounding the proposal is money. According to City Representative Carl Robinson the problem is that public transportation does not make money and it’s subsidized.

“Public transportation does not make money in the first place, so public transportation is subsidized as it is,” Robinson said during a city council meeting. “This is a good initative, but think about the consequences.”

As both the city and Sun Metro continue to do research on how much the program would cost, Robinson said that the results of the report would be ready soon.

“We are currently waiting on the report before we take any further action, and we should be getting the report and the results in the next 30 days or so,” Robinson said.

Alonso Moreno may be reached at [email protected].

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Free bus rides still up for debate