BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR)– After all town council members voted “yes,” Blacksburg Transit will now have free bus fare for everyone.
“As a student, and someone who has ridden the bus a bunch of times, I know how annoying it can be to have to pay sometimes,” said Brendan Exterkate, a Virginia Tech Student.
For Brendan, taking the Blacksburg transit was his only way to get around Virginia Tech’s campus.
“When it comes down to it, when I have to go to the math emporium or anywhere in town, I’m a freshman so I don’t have a car,” said Brendan.
He is not alone.
Other students like Brendan say this will help people who rely on public transportation.
“The bus is really valuable, I use it daily — and if I had to pay, I would not take it,” said Colin Bell, another Virginia Tech student.
According to the Town Transit Director Brian Booth, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the town has not been collecting fares to help with relief.
Now, this decision will remove the fares from the town code permanently, to move forward and operate fare-free.
“The state of Virginia actually had an initiative that launched just prior to COVID in 2018, which was to look at either low-fare or no-fare pilots for low-income populations,” said Booth.
Booth added, because of this decision the town will lose $50,000 in revenue.
However, they are not worried as this amount will be made up through other state and federal revenue.
That’s including local grants and partnerships.
During the fiscal year that ended in June of 2022, Blacksburg transit saw 3.2 million passengers riding the bus, that’s according to their “monthly ridership and service level report.”
In the previous fiscal year, that ridership sat at 810,754.
“Those who truly need transit and are transit dependent are actually here in Blacksburg. This is the population of people who really need the bus to get to life-sustaining measures,” said Booth.
Booth says even bus fares can get pricey, depending on how many times you ride. So, every dollar counts.
So, for riders like Brendan, he says “free fares for everyone!”