Leaders in several cities and towns around the region have been placing calls to explore their own fare-free bus options since Boston officials launched a high-profile pilot program, but in Quincy, the top elected official does not share the same enthusiasm.
"I think it needs more study," Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said Tuesday when asked if he supported Boston's two-year program eliminating fares on a trio of bus routes. "I think we need to deal with the challenges we face, and I'm not so sure without a funding source that we can provide free service every day."
Koch, a member of the MBTA Board of Directors who represent cities and towns that help fund the transit system, said there may be ways to approach fare-free options and that officials will "continue to flesh those out."
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The mayor said the MBTA faces "a lot of challenges" on the horizon, particularly once it exhausts the nearly $2 billion it received in federal pandemic relief aid.
"I give the governor a lot of credit. We've done incredible work on the infrastructure," Koch said. "But we are looking at, when this federal money dries up, a real cliff on revenue, and we're going to have to come up with a fix for that."
The MBTA faces growing pressure to overhaul its fare offerings from transit advocates, who want the agency to launch a universal low-income ticket option and to support work to eliminate some fares. A six-month program eliminating fares on the Route 28 bus from Mattapan to Ruggles led to a 22% increase in ridership but only saved money for about a third of riders because they still faced charges elsewhere on the system.
Boston officials will now use $8 million in federal relief funds to pay for a two-year fare-free pilot on the Routes 23, 28 and 29. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said last month that other municipalities have reached out expressing interest in similar pilot programs.