Boston extends free bus pilot for the rest of the year — at least


“It will work with City and MBTA employees to continue the free service on the 28th and expand it to other bus lines.”

The number 28 MBTA bus moves through Matapan Square along Blue Hill Street in July. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

Boston Experience Allowing passengers to take MBTA’s 28 bus for free It was extended until the end of the year.

And with Mayor-elect Michelle Wu, the region’s most prominent advocate of free transport, taking over her duties next week, this may just be the beginning.

The office of Acting Mayor Kim Ganei announced Tuesday that the three-month pilot program, tentatively scheduled to end on November 29, will get an additional one-month extension to December 31, using funds included in the city’s annual budget. According to Janney, extending the road service – which mostly serves low-income commuters from Mataban, Dorchester and Roxbury – was part of her department’s work to “build a more equitable city”.

In addition to providing some comfort for low-income commuters, Wu has long argued that free transportation would bring other benefits as well, such as encouraging more people to use more environmentally sustainable transportation and improving service through faster boarding times.

After the announcement, its transition team said it was “keen to apply the lessons learned from this pilot program to expand free transportation through Boston,” and make pilots like the 28 fixed components of the MBTA system.

“It will work with City and MBTA employees to continue the free service on the 28th and expand it to other bus routes,” a spokesperson for Wu Transmission said in a statement.

Janey’s management set aside $500,000 to make up for lost fare revenue from Pilot 28, administer the program, and study its effects.

They say the results have been a ‘success’.

Since the start of the pilot program in August, Jani’s office says the number of passengers on Route 28 has risen from about 47,000 weekly trips — or about 70 percent of its ridership before the pandemic — to more than 70,000 weekly trips, making it the most popular bus route in the MBTA system. . While Total number of bus passengers It has also increased during that time as more residents return to personal work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and no route has been seen as a dramatic jump as Leap 28, which is now close to 100 percent of its regular commuter. Jani’s office says that comparing trends on similar routes suggests that the increase is a direct result of the free pilot.

The big pending question is how to pay for the free permanent service.

Wu’s transition team declined to provide details on whether the mayor-elect would fund the continuation of the free bus service with city money.

Last summer, Wu’s office proposed expanding the free service with free two-year trial projects on select bus routes, starting with buses 28, 66 and 116. Centered on Passenger Analysis Made in partnership with the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, her office has estimated that the free service on these three routes will save passengers—and cost the MBTA—about $1010,600 per year in fares.

Of course, the limited pilot programs — which do not include free transportation to other MBTA buses or subway lines — are just the first step in Wu’s vision for a free public transportation system in Boston.

MBTA officials and outside experts generally put the cost of canceling fares on all MBTA buses at around $100 million, although some say limiting them to Boston local buses would cost about a third of that in fares.

At this level, Wu pointed to potential sources of state and federal funding, such as A bill proposed by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley to create a $5 billion grant program for transit agencies that scrap wages (although this proposal was not included in the Infrastructure package passed recently). There’s also the so-called millionaire tax ballot question approaching in 2022, which advocates say It can provide a much-needed stream of revenue to the MBTA.

However, leaders of the State Council were reluctant to embrace Wu’s vision – if not openly against it. in a Interview with WCVB over the weekendGovernor Charlie Baker said he opposes government funding of the free MBTA service and has indicated that he will only support it “if the city of Boston is willing to pay.” Leaders of the Democratic-controlled House and Senate He also did not express support.

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