The Motor City Freedom Riders group has launched a symbolic petition asking the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, also known as TheRide, to postpone collecting bus fares during COVID-19.
TheRide is scheduled to start collecting fares on August 2nd for the first time since March when the pandemic hit. They originally stopped collecting fares to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Joel Batterman is a board member of the Motor City Freedom Riders.
Joel Batterman: Even if there is a shield between riders and drivers, obviously, there is still contact at the fare box when riders are swiping a card or putting in cash.
In a statement sent to WEMU, TheRide says if they continue to forgo collecting fares, the lost revenue would impair their ability to adequately provide essential services the community needs. Batterman says TheRide did receive nearly $21 million earlier this year in federal COVID-19 relief funding. About 200 people have signed the petition that will be sent to TheRide.
TheRide's full statement that was sent to WEMU:
We suspended collecting fares when we promoted boarding using the back door due to concerns for driver and customer safety. We’ve since resolved those concerns by installing plexiglass barriers and taking many other safety measures.
Our operating model relies on fare revenue. Continuing to forgo collecting fares would impair our ability to adequately provide essential services the community needs. The uncertainty of the pandemic’s impacts on our state funding may also be significant and we plan to use resources available through the CARES Act to maintain financial viability into 2022.
We know that during these challenging times, many in our community are particularly financially burdened at this time. TheRide has numerous programs allowing for reduced or waived fares for those in need.
While we are not yet resuming our service to pre-pandemic levels, we are taking a cautious, measured approach to bring additional service back for essential travel, which begins August 30. Our goal is to bring back full service as soon as we are able. We appreciate our community’s passion about the wellbeing and safety of riders and staff. We share the same commitment to ensure everyone remains safe and will do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org