AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It wasn’t a free lunch, but it was a free ride. Something thousands took advantage of, but soon no more.

For Angela Reid, it was important savings during a time when she needed it, free bus rides.

“Yeah, because you can get on the bus anywhere, ride and you were on your way,” she said.

But for transit uses like Angela, the free rides end July 15th.

“When they start paying July the 15th, I can’t tell you how many bus rides I’m going to miss. But, I’m going to try and get my fifty so I can get my monthly pass,” she said.

Bus riders are some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many people will be forced to refigure their finances to get on board.

“I’m homeless. I’ve got to collect the money so I can ride it. Hopefully I’ll be out of this situation soon,” said Brian Mitchell.

“Makes it hard to look for a job if you got to pay for the bus.”

“Yeah,” he answered.

Commissioners suspended bus fares in April of last year and directed passengers to use the back door to get on and off in response to COVID-19.

The department has had 13 positive COVID cases, with 33 quarantines. 

 The free rides proved to be popular, ridership is up 13%.

But even with all those extra passengers, with no one paying fares, the system has lost an estimated $1.3million in revenue.

COVID cases are declining, so The City is preparing to reinstate the $1.25 fare, but some say it’s still too early.

“Yes, it’s been helpful I think they should leave it like it is until the pandemic is completely over with because a lot of people are still struggling trying to make ends meet and feed their families,” said rider Victor Washington.

The pandemic did do one thing, it did introduce Augusta Public Transit to people who never used the system before.

Will they continue once fares resume? That remains to be seen.