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Wu seeks to expand free-bus pilot to two more lines over two more years

Mayor Wu said today she will ask the City Council to spend $8 million in incoming federal funds to eliminate fares on the 23, 28 and 29 bus lines over the next two years.

The 28 is already free to riders through the end of the year under a pilot launched earlier this year by acting Mayor Kim Janey.

According to the mayor's office:

While overall bus and subway ridership is at 53 percent of pre-pandemic weekday ridership, the free 28 bus saw ridership surge to 92% of pre-pandemic levels, making it the most popular in the system.

The 23 Bus line (Ashmont to Dorchester Center, Grove Hall & Ruggles) the 28 Bus line (Mattapan Square, up Blue Hill Ave, to Nubian Square & Ruggles) and the 29 Bus line (Mattapan Square, up Blue Hill Ave, to Jackson Square) each serves a diverse ridership, and each intersects with Blue Hill Ave, which has been identified by Livable Streets Alliance as one of the corridors that should be prioritized for improvements to increase reliability and boost ridership.

In tweets, Wu adds:

The two-year period will allow us to measure the benefits of this program, ensure every Boston resident hears about it & give riders the opportunity to integrate riding the bus into their day-to-day routines.

Most importantly, these findings will help us build regional & state-level momentum to fight for a fully fare-free public transportation system. More to come!


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I can't WAIT til the honeymoon is over and the maggots in the local political press crawl up the non crook Mayor's tuchus all day!


But there are other potential uses for $8 million in "free" money from the feds -- like more bike/bus lanes or perhaps signal prioritization so that the buses don't spend as much time waiting at traffic lights. If you want to help out poor people, maybe offer subsidized monthly passes to people on WIC/SNAP/unemployment -- that way you open up opportunity across the metro region rather than just along a handful of bus lines. A free ride to Ruggles isn't that useful if you're still going to have to cough up $2.40 to get on the Orange Line.


For any expense you can always make the argument there's a better way to use the money. If she spent it on bike lanes someone would argue it should go toward bus fare since not everyone can ride a bike.

It will be interesting to see how the usage of these bus lines change during the program. That will help determine how effective these sorts of programs are.


The logic of making the T free for all, rather than having a needs-based system like subsidized passes, is the same logic behind public school and Medicare (as opposed to Medicaid). Universal programs are valued by everyone and therefor supported by everyone. Needs-based programs become demonized by the Right and are under constant threat of budget cuts because the majority of voters don't feel they benefit from them.


Yet MBTA fares are lower than almost everywhere else in the country, and still make up a notable chunk of its budget. The same MBTA with a large variety of budgetary problems, both self inflicted and inflicted from elsewhere.

The concern with "free" programs is long term sustainability, and MBTA management overall is hardly something to write home about.

MBTA fares are certainly a much lower burden than owning a car. While the poor might have fare issues, they just as often have issues with access to MBTA stations or time to actually use it that often have them falling back to cars before fares do.

So I'm skeptical "free" MBTA is going to be the panacea people and Wu in particular want it to be (she is falling for the rent control fallacy after all), but it will be interesting to see the results. I believe Seattle has a few free bus lines (they tend to be specific stops) but I'm unsure of anywhere that has actually made "free" work yet (though they have tried)


Free-to-the-rider public transit has the additional benefit of freeing up the substantial capital and operating costs of the entire system of collecting fares and the bureaucracy that supports it, all of which is, at the moment, reducing value rather than creating value. That money could instead be spent on running buses and trains and maintaining and improving facilities.


Free-to-the-rider public transit has the additional benefit of freeing up the substantial capital and operating costs of the entire system of collecting fares and the bureaucracy that supports it, all of which is, at the moment, reducing value rather than creating value. That money could instead be spent on running buses and trains and maintaining and improving facilities.

You do realize that people, but especially politicians, can't be perfect, right? Even Michelle Wu. It's a bit early to start declaring victory here...

You want an endorsement for this man?
By Brian Riccio on Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:53am.
Ask Monica Cannon-Grant. I trust her opinion on anyone in this town over what passes for a media any day.


Taking covid stimulus and using it to give away freebies misses the point of the stimulus. That money should be used to develop programs that help people improve their lives. Everybody already got the free $. Let’s build something sustainable here.


From poor neighborhoods is not something worthwhile?


The stimulus is a one time payment. You should use it to fund sustainable projects or infrastructure/capital improvements that will have a lasting impact. Like literacy programs. Workforce training. The city can’t afford to pay full fare for multiple bus lines in perpetuity.


Which will give the city two years to see if it will work longterm and, if so, figure out how to convince the stat to begin moving the T to a more permanent free-fare system, which is, let's not forget, one of the things Wu ran on.


Building sea walls and dealing with flooding. The first steps to solving climate change are local actions, not waiting for the UN to outlaw internal combustion engines. More people in buses = less people driving single cars. It all adds up.


temporarily and helps only small subset of poor working class?
I would rather see that money spent on making the system more reliable, like signal priority or simply buying more buses.

Do residents and riders like the program? Does it increase ridership and decrease car traffic? Would voters consider expanding it using tax funding?

The only issue I see is that given this program only exists on a few bus lines it doesn't show the true potential cost savings that eliminating fares all together would bring. A surprisingly huge percentage of T funding goes to maintaining and updating the fare system. Eliminating that all together would eliminate those costs while bringing real value to T riders and those who continue to drive. Can you imagine what a completely free train and bus system would mean for rush hour traffic?


Has f- all to do with fares on the T. People choose to deal with the suckiness of rush hour traffic (and pay more to commute) because it is less sucky than riding the T. Pre-pandemic, the subways were already packed at rush hour. The problems for the T have always been convenience and reliability. Buses don't show up on time and they are slooooooowwww. The Red Line uses trains that are a half-century old.

The cost of fare collection is a small fraction of the amount of fares collected. And pulling out fare revenue makes an often-cash-strapped transit agency even poorer. You do not want to rely on the generosity of the rest of the state for the quality of MBTA service.


The cost of fare collection is a small fraction of the amount of fares collected.

I disagree with that assessment.

The MBTA collects somewhere between $600M and $700M per year in fares. (source: https://cdn.mbta.com/sites/default/files/fmcb-meeting-docs/2019/04-april...)

Just one vendor contract for the new fare system is now at close to a billion (source: https://www.wcvb.com/article/boston-mbta-new-fare-collection-contract-ye...). Figure at best a 15 year lifespan, add in operational and management costs.


This is good. Needs to be paired with rapid bus lanes or you will still have bus riders stuck in traffic.


with more people on buses, there will be less traffic, so...

every four lane street used to have a street car. we need bus lanes. Columbia Rd especially the 16 crawls.

People who don’t have a lot of disposal income are not the ones whining about the free bus. Even people of means who take the 28 bus are not among the whiners. It’s only those who aren’t directly benefiting from this plan who have a problem with it. I’m sure the fact that it runs through Roxbury and Mattapan has nothing to do with it, though.


Hopefully this program can also add the High Speed Line from Mattapan to Ashmont station with the wealthy town of Milton chipping in some funds.


Riders would still need to pay at Ashmont to get on the Red Line, which will always be the fastest way into downtown Boston from Mattapan unless (a) a new tunnel is dug under Blue Hill Avenue to speed up the 28 (or whichever rail service replaces it) or (b) the Fairmount Line, where some stations are already "subsidized" (in the sense that subway pricing overrides the distance-based pricing found everywhere else in the CR system), becomes true rapid transit.

I believe that line is already free...

Okay, back in the 70s and 80s to say the least, the Mattapan was free except if you exited inbound before Ashmont or entered after the trolley left Ashmont. I believe the reasoning was that you were riding an extension of the Red Line, so being charged twice on a single line was foolish.

They never charge from Ashmont, but technically the transfer is on your charlie card.

Put some of the budget towards using city snow plows to scrape cars out of the Washington St. bus lane every morning.


However, for the bus to become more convienent, you need to get cars out of the way.

To start with, you need to make driving much, much more expensive and taking the T- the subway or a bus- much easier.

This is an admirable pilot (even though it takes the city's allocation of federal relief $ to subsidize a state transit authority for the 23, 28 and 29 buses.)

Since the reduction of the route and cut-back in service hours of the 55, the Fenway now has no bus which goes from the West Fens downtown to Boston Common.

The need for this bus, particularly among the elderly and handicapped, continues to be ignored by the Governor and the MBTA despite repeated demonstrations in the neighborhood and advocacy by elected representatives.

Bring back the 55 bus!

Copley is now accessible, as is Park Street. That wasn't true when the 55 route was first extended from Copley to downtown.

It transports workers to work and customers to stores. This is a smart investment. Means testing wastes money and demonizes people. It will bring more people to Blue Hill Ave.

All buses are free in Lexemburg.