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More free bus lines? Wu to ask neighboring cities to help test free fares on 66, 116 bus routes

Mayor Wu said today that she plans to work with officials in Cambridge, Chelsea and Revere to see if they can create a free-fare pilot on two long bus routes that carry riders between those cities and Boston.

At a press conference at Ashmont station on her plans to free the 23, 28 and 29 routes for two years, Wu said both the 66, which runs between Harvard and Nubian squares, and the 116, which runs between Wonderland and Maverick Square via Chelsea, are just the sort of routes that could benefit from free fares: Connecting front-line and other workers with jobs and medical and educational facilities.

She said that she went with the 23, 28 and 29 first because their routes are entirely within Boston city limits, so funding - $8 million over two years via federal Covid-relief funds if approved by the City Council - would be relatively simple, while funding for free fares on the 66 and 116 would require regional coordination, since the MBTA itself has no interest in free fares unless somebody else pays for them.

She said that ridership on the 28 line, currently free through a $500,000 pilot started by acting Mayor Kim Janey, is now the highest in the T system and shows that free fares can really help people who might otherwise have trouble buying a CharlieCard or even just finding $1.70 in loose change for a ride to work or a doctor's appointment. Ridership on the line, she said, is now approaching pre-pandemic levels, while elsewhere on the T, ridership is still roughly half what it was before March, 2020.

"Bostonians have already voted with their feet to show what works," she said. Wu has long advocated for eventually freeing the entire T to riders as a way to both help riders and to boost the local economy by giving residents easier access to jobs across the region.

Wu, wearing an MBTA-token pendant, added that her administration will also work to expand dedicated bus routes in Boston - such the new center-road lanes that just opened along Columbus Avenue between Egleston and Jackson Squares.

Before she started talking about bus routes and fares, Wu wanted to clear something up about one of the city councilors who attended the press conference: Stop calling Michael Flaherty Five-Car Flats.

"Let the record show that Councilor Flaherty does not have five cars and that he took the Red Line to get here today," she said.

In 2019, Flaherty tore into then Councilor Wu's proposal to charge for residential parking permits, saying the city should go after out-of-towners = and what he said were too many MBTA bus stops - taking up Boston parking spaces rather than hitting people like him and his family members, whom he said had five cars between them.

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The 32 should be next.


At the very least, they should add bus lanes (similar to what they did for Columbus Avenue) to Hyde Park Avenue between Walk Hill St and Metropolitan Avenue.


The only stretch of Hyde Park Ave between Walk Hill and Metropolitan that get any kind of congestion is around Canterbury and Cummins. It should be noted that some of that congestion is due to double parked cars, so if they removed a traffic lane for buses, you'd get the same result.

I formerly rode Route 32 (especially after 7pm, when the last bus to Cleary Square via Roslindale was at 6:50pm and the 40/50 took over at 8pm) and yes, that spot between Cummins and Canterbury is pretty congested.

The approaches to Cleary Square might be a better move for bus lanes, though perhaps a la Washington Street in Roslindale to allow for parking in the commercial district. I was running up Hyde Park Avenue this morning and I was passed by a truck right before West Street. I passed him by Rons, though he caught up to me on Gordon Avenue. I'm not that fast, and in fact I walked over the railroad bridge. That's an example of how congested the square is.

You mean she just gets in there and immediately starts making things happen? Shouldn't we be burying this in layer after layer of feasability studies and blue-ribbon commissions?


We where promised she'd be powerless to enact any of these changes! If she was actually going to do these things she should have been open about that during the campaign.



A handful of free bus lines is not a free MBTA. Especially when the connections along the routes require paying a fare anyway.


"A journey of a thousand miles can only begin with a single thousand mile step"

The Globe is probably working on a weeklong "too much, too soon" feature that will help promote their neophobia angle to their ever dwindling subscriber base.

Notice how the coming apocalypse at Mass & Cass has suddenly disappeared from their daily output? Weird that. Perhaps the [decades old] issue was either blown out of proportion or virtually non-existent in the first place.

But don't you worry, the folks at the Globe know that vilifying the city and its inhabitants sells copy out in the burbs so they'll be at it in no time.

The Globe gave Wu favorable coverage and savagely attacked her opponent. It’s pretty clear that the Globe favors Wu.

If manna is falling from the skies in Washington.

She could build a death ray to knock out Venus with the money that has been flowing.

The "Free" T should be more equitable and more diverse in its implementation. There are not a lot of captains of industry walking off of the 10, 92, 93, or the 1.


But me, I'm glad that at least a portion of the federal monies are going less to blowing shit up and more towards things that actually help people.


Who do you think lives in the multi-million dollar brownstones in the Back Bay or the gleaming new condo towers? The help?

WhErE dOeS JiM DaViS gEt a FrEe T pAsS?


Not having the captains of industry in on subsidized transit benefits is the very definition of equitable. If the price of your public transportation for a year is like 2% of your income, you're not in a population of great concern.


The Toonies are not getting on.

The same thing with the 10.

Take off your blinders.

The 43, the 47, the 8 should be free as well.


The 92 is mostly Toonies plus a handful of Mishawum residents, at least it was pre-pandemic.


They should definitely prioritize lines that serve more low income people but it is important for the survival of this program that middle and upper middle class people value it - they're the ones with the most influence in politics.

I'd bet that getting rid of fares on a line that wealthy people make use of (ie any branch of the Green line) would make it a lot more likely this program survives and expands. The benefits aren't just the savings to riders on fares but the time saved by no longer delaying travel time to collect fares and a likely lessening of car traffic along the routes.


are useless against Venus. There is no life on Venus. Come on, get your hyperboles straight!


On a list of things you worry about, how high up on the list are bus fares?


If you take the bus it would be pretty high on the list.


Not as reasonable as free but still affordable.
My youngest takes the 23 bus to the O'Bryant every day.


Don't BPS kids get free passes if they go to school more than two miles away from home? (I did back in the 2000s)

Good for trans and buses 7 days a week

A bus pass is $55/month, $660/yr. Not needing to pay that is a small raise for anyone who uses those bus lines.

It means they don't need to worry about refilling a Charlie Card to get home or get to work. Or just going out to meet friends.

It's not always the big expenses which really hurt those who living on the edge, it's all the little expenses which can quickly snowball.

If you're in debt, an extra $20 on a credit card for a Charlie Card refill is going to cost a lot more when the interest rate and fees are added.


gets a free M-7 pass from BPS right?

So you're saying riding the bus for free is reasonable and affordable?


I know Quincy gives reduced student rate cards the students have to reload themselves.

To ride the T at Forest Hills and Jackson Square. My parents were financially irresponsible and addicted.

Free anything might’ve made me cry.

Even when I worked with Americorpe in Dorchester. Free T would’ve helped my stipend tremendously, especially on my way down to Nubian Square to qualify for Foodstamps.

Why would it, when other necessities like rent, food, and especially daycare are many times more expensive?

It's a big enough of a concern that the 28 is at almost double the % Pre-Covid ridership of the rest of the MBTA, so I'd say yes.


How does it compare to the other busiest urban bus lines?

In seeing more refined data: how many of those new trips are short trips (e.g. 1-2 stops) that are replacing walking along the Blue Hill Ave corridor?

Some of those are riders who wait to take the 28 even if they could also take the 23, 29, or 31. What is the total change in ridership for those four routes combined? Have the 23, 29, and 31 seen less of an increase in ridership since September when schools reopened vs. other routes in Dorchester/Roxbury? Two of those routes that share part of the corridor with the 28, the 23 and 29, are the next two to get free fares. Perhaps ridership on the 28 will drop a bit once those routes are also free.

Because I have. Instead of taking the bus I would walk many many hours from Dorchester to Cambridge / Revere / etc for job interviews and appointments. Having one of the major cross-town lines be free would have saved me a great deal of trouble.

And as an able-bodied youngster, I was at least physically capable of making the journey. I don’t even want to think about how much trouble I would have been in if I were disabled.


Wait times at stops while everyone boards through one door and then some need to make change or don’t have enough for the fare is another concern. No matter how much or little the fare means to you.


If there are a lot more "unnecessary" trips (i.e. short, 1-2 stop trips that were made by foot before the bus became free), then that would negate any time savings from eliminating fare collection. In particular, buses (even busy ones like the 28 and 39) don't stop at every stop, but having those extra riders may result in making those extra stops.

In other words, without stop consolidation, which is controversial due to concerns about accessibility by the elderly/disabled, the increase in travel time from "unnecessary" short trips can negate the decrease in dwell time.

Enough that the community pressured the T to offer weekly bus passes because the cost of a monthly pass was too big a hit to people's budgets.


I'd put it at #4 after housing, food and clothing @StillFromDorchester.

I don't drive so the T is my least expensive form of transportation to and from work and to any entertainment venues I might want to visit including museums. If you work it right you can get a bus to the Museum of Science if you don't mind about a 5 minute walk at the end of the route.

In addition to specific bus lines, I hope they consider making parts of the entire system fareless outside of peak times. Lots of good reasons to have fares be based on system usage.


Not the head of the MBTA.


Except there is huge benefit to being fare free during rush hour. Ever been on the 39 at 5:30? Easily 50% of your time on the bus is spent stopped, waiting for boarding riders to pay their fare and much of the above ground Green Line is effectively fare free during rush hour because the drivers just let people board through rear doors.


Although I generally favor a 100% no fare system that would shift costs to corporations, institutions, venues, large property owners who benefit the most from public transport, I wonder if taxing peak usage would incentivize workers/commuters/employers to reconfigure work schedules to “flatten” the rush hour curve?

But I don't think she could do that without the cooperation of neighboring towns... there's no MBTA subway line that only has stops in Boston.

Not sure if some of the first above-ground stops are in Brookline.

I think the closest the town line comes is about a block south of Comm Ave.

edit - looks like it's closer than I thought (to say the least) - at least how it appears on Google maps. Looks like the town may be as close as "somewhere along the south (eastbound) side of Comm Ave"

But some of the Boston College yard is technically in Newton I believe.

The B is all in Boston.

But along Comm between St Marys and nearly Packard's Corner, the buildings on the south side of Comm are 99.9% in Brookline. The municipal line is the back side of the sidewalk, so the buildings have a Boston address (their front door) but pay property tax in Brookline.

So are fees for residential parking stickers (finally) back on the table?


It is insane to me that those of us who have private vehicles get to park for free on public property. I pay a laughably small amount of excise tax on my admittedly not fancy car, certainly not enough to cover the share of the space it takes up on my street.

It doesn't even have to be a large amount of money. Free residential parking is a subsidy that needs to go. Given that we already staff an office to handle permits, adding a payment component to that operation seems like an easy addition that would require minimal additional expenditure on the city's behalf.

I would, however, like to see a Cambridge-style guest parking pass option initiated if we go to paid stickers.


I mean some people who cannot afford the stickers are going give up driving. If it is $100 a month, That will hurt a lot of low income earners and if you make according to income, that is discrimination for the use of public streets. What do you tell the people in the projects in the South End and Lower Roxbury? Too bad? Mike on Pembroke Street can have a car, you can't.

That opens the spaces up for the wealthier to have more cars on the street.

The appears to be a regressive tax.


Where do you get $100 a month? Cambridge and Somerville are under a 100 a YEAR. Much cheaper than a T pass. If you are worried about regressive tax it's that electric cars (which are overwhelming owned by the wealthy) pay no use fees like the gas tax (in fact there are few charging stations) but those without cars pay close to $100 a month to ride the T, now if you are from Roalindale or Hyde Park or West Roxbury.


It's not a tax. It's a fee.

And the details would be important. $100 a month for a North End sticker might be fair, because the city's land there is so valuable and supply/demand is so lopsided. $100 a month for a Hyde Park sticker might not be fair for the same reasons.


Also having off street parking jacks rents up by several hundred a month so it would be targeting people in cheaper housing, therefor lower income people.

I always thought we were talking like $25 or $50 a YEAR, so that people had SOME skin in the game.


That's in the ballpark of how much per person the city would have to pay to the MBTA to make all subway/bus lines free (i.e. $90/month passes). This applies even without considering the state-level subsidies that make a $90/month pass possible, and without considering the fact that there are more people than cars in Boston.

You can have lower fees for those on SNAP. This works well for cultural benefits such as ferry tickets.
The parking stickers just stick it to who can’t afford a car much less the sticker but who rent, borrow or hire on occasion. Or who need to attend to a resident and need to bring their car.


At least, that's the argument for fare-free buses as opposed to means-tested T fares.

Boston doesn't even issue any sort of parking passes to government-funded healthcare programs that make home visits to families throughout the city. Cambridge and Somerville for sure do (and probably other places I'm not aware of). I've worked at many places that have pushed for this, but Boston won't do it. In the past few years they've toyed with very limited programs for some types of home health aides, but not most home visitors.

Cambridge parking permit is $25 per year, which is less than one tank of gas these days.


The idea that the city is paying somebody to manage this program and not AT THE VERY LEASE recoup the costs of administering it is insane.

Somerville and Cambridge both have totally reasonable fees for parking permits. 25-50 dollars a year is absolutely reasonable and any proceeds above and beyond the cost to administer should be put towards transit improvements.

Yea cuz Boston isn’t expensive enough. Another fee ought to fix it all:

Not sure about other neighborhoods, but I received a letter from the city saying that my Southie parking sticker, which was set to expire at the end of this year and would require a renewal, was being automatically renewed until November 30, 2023.

If this extention is citywide, and if paid parking stickers become a reality before Nov. 2023, the only revenue source for awhile would be from new residents/cars, unless the city says, hey current permit-holders, just kidding, you now need to renew and you have to pay, which would go over really well, I'm sure.

Only if there is a big overhaul of the system. Too many stickers and not enough spaces. Every street that's not a main road should be permit only and permits should not entitle the user to park in large swaths of the city.

Currently, someone in Lower Mills can park all day and night in the Polish Triangle, but some from PT can't park up the street in Andrew.

Good luck in Revere where the townies are up in arms because the Mayor just put a bus lane on Broadway and they're already going off about it!


If the bus is free maybe the townies will try using it?


so I would expect Mayor Wu will want to talk to that town as well.


You mean the Town which could, could allow height limits to exceed (outside of pockets of Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village) to allow for more residential density?

Did you ever notice that the Fenway is chock full of tall buildings, yet steps away the only buildings along Beacon Street over 5 stories are medical office occupied by small operators?


Is there any chance some of the costs of the trial can be offset by corporate partners who benefit from their employees getting to work on public transit? I'm near the 39, and there's a variety of big businesses on that route that I bet could cough up some serious money in the name of civic betterment and not even miss it. The various hospitals at Longwood, Harvard School Of Public Health, Northeastern, Wentworth, Mass College of Pharm, and Wayfair could probably go a long ways towards funding that study. The colleges especially, as they pay lower effective tax rates than their non-academic peers.

I know we tried the sponsorship idea with the Night Owl, but I think it would have more success during times when the majority of riders are out and about.


The 39 is a connection-heavy line. Making it free is a symbolic gesture because it doesn't help the vast majority of people who use it to connect to other buses at Forest Hills.

Arguably, that pot of money could be better spent on subsidizing, either partly or fully, $90/month passes for those institutions' employees.

If we could get the large nonprofit landowners to actually pay their property taxes...then maybe the money could go towards freeing the T!

Where's the discussion about transfers, which will still cost riders the same amount of money? This might be less applicable for the 66 (especially with the 23 and 28 being free connections at Nubian) but it's definitely an issue for the 116, which terminates at Maverick.

Hard to say for sure, but a stopgap might be to still take a Charlie Card tap on the bus, but charge it for $0 and set up a free transfer. Seems a little complicated, and doesn't fully allow for the speedier boarding aspect of this trial, but I'm struggling to think of an easier way.

The one plus to it is that it still captures ridership numbers reliably via tap count.

So how does this fare-free pilot affect those of use with monthly link passes? Do those on the mentioned bus lines get a discount? After all, if we still have to pay $90 per month, then we're really not getting anything for free.

Except for a more crowded bus. Congrats!


is what you're getting.

you know the link pass covers more than just these bus routes right?

When that free money runs out? And more importantly, shouldn't we use that money to fix the T instead of using it to buy votes?

This is a fabulous idea that will have an enormous positive impact on Boston families on Day One and that's welcomed in this high inflation world.