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Fort Collins transit offering free rides but ridership still lagging pre-pandemic levels

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(The Center Square) – The transit agency that serves the Fort Collins area has not collected fares for riding its buses since 2020.

Yet, Transfort’s buses are still at less than half of peak-level pre-pandemic ridership despite offering free rides.

Transit agencies across the U.S. have struggled to recover their riders lost during the pandemic. Fort Collins’ Transfort is no exception. And some cities are offering free rides in hopes it will spark more of a recovery.

Home of Colorado State University, Fort Collins transit ridership has traditionally peaked in the fall when college classes start.

In October 2019, Transfort buses had 359,494 riders, the most of any month that year. In September 2020, Transfort’s buses had 153,047 riders and reached 149,555 riders in August 2023.

Transfort has not collected fares since 2020, and the bus rides are offered at no charge to riders. In 2019, the transit agency collected $3.3 million in fares, directly generating revenue, and had an operating budget of $17.1 million.

Transfort had 4.5 million trips in 2019, according to the Federal Transit Administration. That dropped to 1.8 million in 2020 and 1.5 million in 2021.

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