THE PRESSURE TO Reducing or eliminating public transit fares gets a holiday boost from the state, which unwrapped a $2.5 grant that will allow all 15 regional transit agencies across Massachusetts to offer fare-free bus service for the rest of the year.
The freeride initiative, billed as “Try Transit,” begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts through New Year’s Eve.
The move follows tariff-free efforts launched by multiple RTAs individually.
In February, the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority announced Its buses would be free of fare every two years. The initiative came on its heels a 2019 effort started under then-Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, who pledged $225,000 in city funds to the Transportation Department to allow three bus lines serving within Lawrence to run free for two years. This caused a surge in ridership on the routes, prompting the agency to seek federal aid funds to provide fare-free travel on all routes that serve along with Lawrence Haverhill, Andover, North Andover, Methuen and Newburyport.
Brockton entered the Fare Free Act with all Brockton Area Transit routes last year offers free weekend service for the summer.
The Worcester Regional Transit Authority ‘paused’ fares in March 2020 and has yet to reintroduce them.
“The suspension of our fare policy has been popular with our drivers and we hope that individuals across the Commonwealth will take advantage of this free scheme and try out transit this holiday season,” Worcester Regional Transit Authority Administrator Dennis Lipka said of the new government initiative.
In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu has championed the idea of a toll-free MBTA service an idea to which she responded first Commonwealth‘s codcast 2018, still as City Councilor. The city is currently signing a pilot program offer Complimentary service on three of the busiest bus routes in the T In Boston.
Although Wu said free service through the T-System should be the ultimate goal, she said getting rid of bus fares would be a good start. The economics of such a policy, and even whether it should be a priority in efforts to encourage public transport use and reduce car dependency, are hotly debated.
For now, however, the sudden availability of millions of dollars in COVID-related aid funds is allowing for trial runs of toll-free bus services.
In the Merrimack Valley, where free fares are already expected to continue through 2024, the new government grant will be used to extend free service a little longer before a decision on future fares has to be made. “The additional MassDOT funding will make it possible [the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority] remain fare-free for an additional six weeks or until Patriots Day 2024 before long-term revenue regulations need to be in place.” according to statement by the authority provided to StreetsblogMASS.
A jumping field republican Editorials praised the new government effort, and optimistically suggested that it could make transit converts out of those who reflexively jump into their cars. “The likelihood of drivers taking advantage of the free month and getting back in their cars after the end of the campaign seems slim compared to the prospect of drivers discovering a convenient mode of transportation that they simply haven’t tried before.”
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STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB
A bill on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk would end the practice of refusing or revoking a professional license or certification because someone defaults on their student loans. (Eagle Tribune) In July, Claudio Martinez of the nonprofit organization Zero Debt Massachusetts, a supporter of the bill, said wrote about the problem in Commonwealth.
Next step in sports betting: The State Gambling Commission will start checking the 15 applicants who have submitted documents to become licensed gaming betting outlets. (State House News)
One year in office, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu doesn’t find quick fixes for the problems at Mass. and cass. (Boston globe)
The Department of Health is applying a pandemic-era policy Rent out hospitals Utilizing alternative spaces within their inpatient care facility to manage the increase in RSV cases. (Eagle Tribune)
Reports from Boston MedFlight it is the busiest year with more than 6,000 patient transports. (USA Today Network)
The Supreme Court Pave the way for releasing Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. (NPR)
Thomas Edsal says The midterm results were good news for Republicans and bad news for Donald Trump, as the party made gains in many demographics — except in races with Trump-backed candidates. (New York Times)
Researchers at the University of Maine reveal a 600 square meter house built with a 3D printer. (Maine Public Radio)
The state plans to open a temporary shelter for homeless migrants in Devens. (Telegram & Scoreboard)
The MBTA will be switched off Access to portions of JFK/UMass and Savin Hill Red Line stations due to the discovery of some structural issues (Dorchester reporter)