SPRINGDALE, Ark. (Oct. 22, 2020) – Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) announced during its board meeting 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 its safe, 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,” said Joel Gardner, executive director. “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. In January of this year, Springdale and Rogers also funded zero-fare for their respective routes. In April, ORT expanded the program system-wide to help eliminate payment transaction times, increase overall ridership, and improve access to existing transportation options. Typically, the full-price fare is $1.25 for fixed routes and $2.50 for curb-to-curb routes.
Since the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, ORT implemented CDC-approved health and safety standards to protect riders and drivers. Currently, all buses are operating at 66 percent capacity, with face covering requirements and back-door boarding. To date, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases among ORT employees due to work-related exposures.
ABOUT OZARK REGIONAL TRANSIT
ORT has three Fixed Routes in Fayetteville, three in Springdale, and one in Bentonville. Rogers service is an On-Demand Transit (ODT) Model with two buses. Additionally, ORT offers an express bus service between Fayetteville and Bentonville which is very popular with NWACC students.
Curb-to-curb service are offered in all four cities with Fixed-Route Service (ODT service in Rogers) and — to a more limited extent — in rural areas and smaller cities in Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties, Monday through Friday (also on Saturday in Rogers).
All ORT vehicles are wheelchair accessible, and all Fixed Route and ODT buses are bicycle-friendly. Information on curb-to-curb service, Fixed-Route transit and ODT can be obtained by calling ORT at (479) 756-5901 or visit ORT’s website: www.ozark.org. For more information on this subject, call Jeff Hatley at 479-365-2161.