Montgomery City Council Votes on Free Rides

At a time when it seems the price of everything is going up, A Montgomery City Councilman wants to give residents a break on their bus fares. Councilman Willie Cook sponsored a resolution to let folks to ride the Montgomery Area Transit System buses for free during the month of July. He says it will, "Help our poor families."

Councilman Willie Cook says helping Montgomery's struggling families is what his resolution would do. However, the main goal of the plan he says is to bolster ridership. "Free ridership is one way to do it," he told WSFA 12 News.

Opponents say nothing is free. They point to figures showing the free ride would cost the city $64,000. Councilwoman Martha Roby stated, "We're already in somewhat of a budget crisis right now."

On average, four thousand to five thousand people ride the bus six days a week. It only cost a dollar to ride. City councilors, including Martha Roby, took a ride on the bus Tuesday. She says riders are already getting a deep discount. "If you ride a bus in the City of Montgomery, you are paying 1/5 of the cost of what it takes to ride that bus," she said.

Residents spoke out at the meeting in support of the resolution, but they equally talked about the poor quality of the buses.  One said, "I would appreciate it if you had sometime of safe system."

The city council voted 7 to 2 against the resolution. Opponents say the real issue is not a free ride but a safe quality ride. "That in my opinion needs to be the focus.," said Roby.

Cook added, "I think having an effective, efficient public transit system is critical to the growth of this city."

MATS does offer a free service Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The lunch trolley express runs throughout the downtown area.

A budget hearing for MATS will be held Wednesday morning. Councilor members say they will address the claims that the buses are not up to par.