SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) announces it will extend its zero-fare program for Northwest Arkansas riders through 2021.
A $144,269 grant from the Walton Family Foundation will allow ORT to continue offering a contactless transit experience while helping offset potential budget losses due to COVID-19.
“We are focused on ensuring a safe, efficient experience for all riders and drivers,” Executive Director Joel Gardner said. “This new support will allow Ozark Regional Transit to expand the use and accessibility of public transportation in Northwest Arkansas.”
Funding from the foundation will ensure ORT can offer its regional bus services to riders free of fare for all of 2021.
The joint effort will help eliminate cost barriers to transportation for underrepresented communities, incentivize new riders, and support local municipalities dealing with the financial impacts of COVID-19.
ORT launched its zero-fare pilot program in August 2018 in Fayetteville.
Springdale and Rogers also funded zero-fare for their routes in January. In April, ORT expanded the program system-wide to help eliminate payment transaction times, increase overall ridership, and improve access to existing transportation options.
Usually, the full-price fare is $1.25 for fixed routes and $2.50 for curb-to-curb routes.
ORT has implemented CDC-approved health and safety standards to protect riders and drivers. Currently, all buses are operating at 66% capacity, with face covering requirements and back-door boarding.
There have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases among ORT employees due to work-related exposures as of now.