Boston Pushing for Expansion of Fare-Free Bus Program

Ridership increased on routes 23, 28 and 29 and 40% of riders saved money in the first year of the city's pilot program

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The City of Boston is pushing to expand its fare-free bus pilot program due to the benefits it has provided riders since its inception a year ago.

Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge is making a case to expand the program to additional routes, saying riders have seen savings and ridership has gone up since the pilot program started, the Boston Herald reported.



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Ridership increased on routes 23, 28 and 29 and 40% of riders saved money, according to a report released Tuesday, with 26% saving $20 or more per month. Those savings are being used to purchase food, save toward long -term goals and build emergency funds.

Read the full report below:

“There’s been significant cost savings for me[…] I use the bus to travel every day to university and then back to my home in Roxbury, literally every day 7 days a week," one focus group participant told the city. "It has really helped me save a lot — around 600-700 dollars using it for 14-15 months."

Ridership has also increased by 35% on the fare-free routes, a greater rate than the rest of the MBTA bus system. Travel times on the routes have remained constant despite the influx of new riders.

“We’ve seen ridership growth on these three lines significantly outpace growth on the system as a whole,” Franklin-Hodge said. “And we’ve seen that growth be absorbed by the buses without increasing delay or reducing performance of the bus."

“All of which goes to show that a fare-free bus can be a better-performing bus when you don’t have that delay as people get on board. You can open up the doors and everybody just hops on.”

Other cities with fare-free bus programs like Denver, Kansas City and Merrimack Valley Transit have also seen increased ridership.

Some riders are also now choosing to take the bus instead of driving, which officials say could reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

The city is funding the program using $8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to reimburse the MBTA. The current program lasts until March 2024, and evaluation is expected to continue during that time period.

Funding to continue the program and potentially expand it further has yet to be identified, Franklin-Hodge said.

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