Earlier this year, Fresno leaders announced a partnership between the city, Fresno State, Fresno Unified, and State Center Community College District to provide free bus passes for students. Credit: City of Fresno

What's at stake?

Starting in January, students at Fresno Unified, SCCCD, and Fresno State can ride FAX for free - joining seniors 65 and over, active military/veterans, medicare card holders, and children under 12, who already qualify for free rides.

Students throughout Fresno will be able to ride for free Fresno Area Express (FAX) buses, starting New Year’s Day, after the Fresno City Council voted 7-0 to approve Mayor Jerry Dyer’s proposal to reduce fares at its meeting Thursday.

Students with a valid photo ID at Fresno Unified School District, State Center Community College District, and Fresno State are eligible.

“The last thing we want our students to worry about is transportation, particularly to school,” Dyer stated in the news release. 

Free fares are made possible through the new city policy which reduced student fares to $0.75 per ride or for a monthly pass for $22. Fresno Unified, State Center Community College District, and Fresno Unified School District are all contributing additional funds to cover the $.75 per fare charged by the city.

“The last thing we want our students to worry about is transportation, particularly to school,” Dyer stated in the news release from the city on Wednesday. 

Fresno Unified School District students will be offered free bus passes that are similar to a program the district had for students who are unhoused, in foster care, or part of other special populations.  

“The new reduced student fare for FAX is great news for our high school students, many of whom struggle to pay for even basic needs, like transportation,” said Superintendent Bob Nelson, according to the news release.

State Center Community College District (SCCCD) students need an ASB card; faculty and staff will also ride for free. 

“We have been working on this for months,” said Carole Goldsmith, chancellor of the State Center Community College District via text with Fresnoland on Thursday. 

At its Nov. 1 meeting, the SCCCD board of trustees agreed to fund the program from January 2023 through June 30, 2024 for students and staff at Fresno City College and Clovis Community College, using up to $250,000 from parking revenue.  

SCCCD ran a no-fare program with FAX starting in 2017 but has been suspended since the summer of 2020.

“It’s a good idea for low income households, for example, me,” said Joseph Labendeira, a current FCC student majoring in architecture. He rides the bus everyday and has no other form of  transportation.  Although he receives a bus pass from a social program he’s on, it is sometimes problematic, he said.

“I don’t have a job, and I am currently in a shelter,” Labendeira said. “I think that would be really beneficial for people who can’t get to school or who have to walk at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. just to get here.”

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Fresno State president, stated in the news release that the plan “helps to close access and equity gaps.”

Students are encouraged to contact their individual campuses for additional information on the program.

Fresno City College student Jesus S. Herrera contributed to this story.

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Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju is the senior editor for Fresnoland.

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