Boston's Fare-Free Bus Pilot Program Continuing Through End of 2021

The program, originally launched as a three-month trial, will now run until the end of December due to its success

An MBTA Route 28 bus with a sign saying "Ride for Free"
NBC10 Boston

Boston's Route 28 bus will continue to be free for riders through the end of the year after showing success in its first three months, Mayor Kim Janey announced on Tuesday.

The city launched the fare-free pilot program this summer in collaboration with the MBTA. The program, originally launched as a three-month trial, will now run until the end of December due to its success in increasing ridership -- it's now the bus route with the most riders in the MBTA system, the mayor said.

“The success of this pilot program shows just how crucial the Route 28 bus is as an economic engine, connecting residents of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan with jobs, schools, and other important destinations," Janey said in a statement. "As we continue to build a more equitable City, I am thrilled that Boston is able to partner with the MBTA to continue this free fare pilot program through the end of the year.”

The bus route, one of Boston’s busiest, connects Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester residents to Boston.

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Since Route 28 went fare free, ridership has returned to pre-pandemic levels from about 70%, rising from 47,000 weekly rides to more than 70,000 weekly rides, according to Janey. The city is evaluating the program by looking at operational data from the MBTA and rider surveys.

Janey launched the three-month program in July, using $500,000 in city funds to pay for it.

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu has expressed support for the pilot program. A longtime advocate for free transportation, Wu said she plans to expand free transit in the city using lessons learned from the Route 28 pilot.

“Mayor-elect Wu has been thrilled to ride the 28 bus in and hear from so many residents about the life-changing impacts of fare-free transportation,” a representative for Wu told NBC10 last week. “She's eager to apply the lessons learned from this pilot program to expand fare-free transit across Boston, making it easier for residents to get to work and school, supercharging our economic recovery, and making Boston healthy and connected.”

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