If there were any questions about the importance of quality local bus service, the experience of the pandemic should have dispelled those doubts. Many of the people staffing our supermarkets, doctor's offices and other essential services rely on local bus service to get to their jobs. Amid the peak of the pandemic, Fairfax Connector still carried nearly 1 million riders in the first three months of 2021.
Reducing – or better yet, eliminating -- the costs of riding our buses will benefit all of us. Even if we never step on a bus, we all rely on transit to power our economy. I was very glad that the General Assembly recognized this by passing legislation this year to expand available state funding for local transit fleets to adopt reduced or zero-fare service. Senator George Barker sponsored this new law (SB342), which raises the cap of the funds under the state’s Transit Rider Incentive Program that can be used for reduced or zero-fare transit projects. In addition, formula changes in the new law will make it easier for larger jurisdictions like Fairfax County to access state funding to reduce or eliminate fares. Delegate McGuinn also sponsored a similar bill, HB 142, which passed in the house. This legislation is on its way to the governor's desk to become law.
Already, the City of Fairfax has adopted a three-year pilot program for zero-fare service in its CUE bus system. Now that more funds are available, I hope Fairfax County will take advantage of the opportunity to reduce the costs paid by commuters on whose contributions to our economy and communities we all depend.