AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Transit Empowerment Fund is working to expand free bus pass access for Austin-area nonprofits that help service people experiencing homelessness. TEF is currently accepting applications from current and former nonprofit partners interested in receiving additional passes for their clients, officials said at a CapMetro meeting Wednesday.

Community advocates have called for free bus access for people experiencing homelessness at board meetings for months. Officials Wednesday said this new interim program would l serve as a “gap solution” until CapMetro rolls out its Amp program in February. An Amp account will help keep track of ridership and qualifying daily, monthly or reduced fare rates.

TEF’s application process is open through Oct. 20, with the organization expected to confirm pass allotments before Oct. 31. Come November, they will distribute the passes out to partnership agencies.

As part of the current application process, nonprofit partners are asked to fill out the following information:

  • Organization name and contact information
  • The number and types of passes requested
  • The intended recipients of the passes
  • Post-reporting on the number of passes distributed and unique recipients

Through this gap period, TEF will collect data on the number of passes each organization receives and how many times the passes were used, using serial numbers on the back of passes to track their use.

One commenter who spoke Wednesday said he volunteers with nonprofit agencies that assist with distributing passes. He also spoke from his personal experience living without housing.

He said individuals often wait hours in line to access these bus passes, which can lead to agitation. He did express possible concerns about people experiencing homelessness using the buses as a place to sleep but added this is still a step forward in getting unhoused residents connected with necessary community resources and assistance.

More information on the application process and who is eligible for TEF’s transit pass program is available online.