The Winona Riders Coalition is a grassroots effort to improve Winona‘s public transit system, build ridership, and expand routes and service hours (which, at present, do not include evenings or Sundays). 80% of the funds necessary for this project would be supplied by MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation); however, that support depends upon ridership, and our system is currently underutilized.
One proven way to increase ridership dramatically is to eliminate fares. Dozens of small urban transit systems across the nation are now fare-free, having replaced with alternative sources of revenue the funds that would otherwise be generated by the sale of bus passes and tokens and the collection of cash fares. Generally, taxation is employed to replace these sources of income in fare-free systems, but we hope our project can instead be funded voluntarily by interested parties in the community.
Our goal is to raise $347,000 (20% of Winona Transit‘s general operating costs for 2020 and 2021) in order to implement a two-year pilot program. We’re partnering with Winona State University and seeking additional funding partners among local businesses and philanthropists. Many individual citizens have pledged monetary contributions as well.
If implemented, Winona’s would be the first fare-free experiment in the history of the State of Minnesota. It would put our town on the map as an especially green, livable, and forward-thinking place. Our hope is that Winona’s fare-free system would not only enhance our own city, but would also serve as a model for other systems, helping to build more sustainable and more equitable communities throughout the state and throughout the nation.