A day after being sworn in, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is taking a first step on one of her trademark campaign pledges: fare-free transit.
Wu’s office filed an appropriations order Wednesday afternoon to use $8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to make three MBTA bus routes running through Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury free to riders for at least two years.
The move would expand the city’s current fare-free pilot on the 28 bus — which was launched in August under former acting mayor Kim Janey and extended through the end of the year — to two additional nearby routes: the 23 bus and the 29 bus.
Wu’s order needs approval from her former colleagues on the Boston City Council, which will hold a hearing on the subject and could vote to authorize the two-year pilot as soon as the first week of December.
The $8 million in funding would come from the $558 million that the City of Boston received from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city reportedly still has more than $360 million to allocate from the bill, and federal guidelines say the money is eligible for a wide range of uses, including the expansion of fare-free transit to help communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic.
Wu’s office said the two-year pilot will allow officials to further measure the benefits of fare-free bus service, such as increased ridership, faster buses, less traffic, and potential business development along the route. Since fares were eliminated on the 28 bus route in late August, city officials have reported a noticeable boost in ridership, making the line the most popular in the system.
While overall bus and subway ridership is at 53 percent of pre-pandemic weekday ridership, the free 28 bus has seen ridership jump back to 92 percent of normal levels. Wu’s office said the two-year length of the experiment would also increase public awareness and give riders the opportunity to integrate the fare-free buses into their daily routines.
Her team also said it sets a foundation from which Wu could build regional and state-level support for her broader calls for fare-free transit, beginning with buses [Boston.com].
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: PATCH.COM
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