Running Low On Pandemic Relief Funds, Fare-Free Buses Need Gov. Healey’s Help

Full and original article posted on Streetsblog Mass

Since 2020, the bus routes of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) have been free for anyone to ride, a policy that’s helped the agency attract new riders and reverse a long-term decline in ridership.

Evidence from the WRTA and several other agencies that have experimented with fare-free policies suggests that suspending fare collections is an effective way to boost ridership, especially on routes that serve large populations of low-income riders.

But to date, these programs have relied on federal pandemic relief funding to compensate for the loss of fare revenue. And as those pandemic funds dwindle, fare-free bus advocates say that Governor Healey – who pledged to support fare-free buses during her campaign last year – needs to make a commitment to funding fare-free buses for the long term.

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