Janey hands out the goodies

Could free bus service along Blue Hill Avenue in 2021 do for Kim Janey what putting the brakes on city water rates did for Tom Menino in 1993? 

In 1993, then-Acting Mayor Menino declared a freeze on water rates in Boston. With the tab coming due for a massive court-ordered cleanup of Boston Harbor, water rates, normally not much of a hot-button issue, were soaring and becoming a major pocketbook concern for ratepayers. Never mind that Menino’s authority to make such a unilateral declaration was unclear. It was a clear winner with residents, and some think it helped seal his lead and pave the way to a big victory that fall.

On Monday, Acting Mayor Janey announced a three-month pilot program of free bus service on the MBTA’s Route 28. The bus route forms a spine running through the heart of Boston’s Black community — from Mattapan Square to Nubian Square. The T is under state control, but Boston officials were able to work the deal by committing $500,000 in city funds to the transit agency to make up for lost fare revenue during the pilot.

In May, Janey got out ahead of herself, declaring about the free-fare pilot program, “I’m launching that now as mayor.” The plan was only under discussion at the time with T officials. But now it’s happening, with the program slated to run from August 29 to November 29. 

A press release announcing the program touted its twofold benefits of fare relief on a route heavily used by low-income riders who have been hit hard by the pandemic and faster travel times because passengers can board via all doors. 

Left unsaid — but not unnoticed — was the third big benefit. As the Dorchester Reporter’s Gin Dumcius pointed out, the pilot program dates happen to overlap with both the September mayoral preliminary election and the November 2 final election — a contest Janey is vying in along with four other major candidates.

Janey has made much of her status as a non-car-owning regular rider of MBTA buses and trains, and that certainly gives her added credibility in talking about T service issues. “As someone who depends, like many Bostonians, on consistent and reliable MBTA service, I know firsthand how vital Route 28 is for the economic corridor that connects Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester,” she said in announcing the free-fare pilot.

But when it comes to pushing the envelope on transit policy, particularly in advocating for free fares, it’s mayoral rival Michelle Wu who has led the charge. 

Two years ago, Wu and Janey cosponsored a City Council hearing on the idea of offering free fares on the Route 28 bus, but it was three years ago that Wu began talking up the idea of free transit fares. It was seen as a bit pie-in-the-sky at the time, but in the short time since then, free bus fare programs have been launched in Lawrence, Worcester, and Brockton

In an effort to further burnish her transit policy bonafides, Wu not only appeared at Janey’s Monday announcement of the Route 28 pilot program, she released a 17-page white paper the same day outlining plans for a broader pilot of free bus fares than includes two additional routes — one that connects East Boston and Chelsea and another connecting Mission Hill and Allston with the Longwood Medical Area and Harvard Square. 

“Today’s announcement shows that free bus service is possible in Boston when we organize to make it happen, but we don’t just need one free route through Election Day—we need a system that reaches across our city,” Wu said in a statement that zinged the timing of the three-month pilot. 

Wu may have been out early on the issue of free transit fares. Janey is counting on voters connecting her with the announcement that it’s finally happening. 




A self-effacing Moses: Bob Moses had nothing like the public recognition of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. But to those who were actually on the front lines of battle — as well as to students of that history — he was legendary. A main architect of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, Moses died on Sunday at age 86. While an icon of the civil rights era who endured beatings and dodged bullets, the second half of his life was devoted to what looked like a very different endeavor, but one he felt was closely tied to the racial justice movement. Moses, a soft-spoken leader with an almost mystic-like bearing, founded a Cambridge-based nonprofit focused on improving math skills among poor Black students. The Algebra Project, which he helped launch with money from a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant he received in 1982, was particularly focused on ensuring students masters first-year algebra by 8th grade, a key milestone in K-12 academic progression that students from privileged backgrounds usually hit but that poorer students often do not. “He saw it as an economic equalizer,” said Jacqueline Rivers, who directed the Boston arm of the Algebra Project in its early years. It “was the new civil rights issue.” Read more

Federal dollars pitched for housing: Baker administration officials testified on Beacon Hill about their priorities for spending some $5.3 billion in federal aid coming via the American Rescue Plan Act. At the top of the list: housing and workforce development initiatives. Mike Kennealy, Gov. Charlie Baker’s secretary of housing and economic development, said tackling the racial homeownership gap is one big goal. Home ownership rates among non-white residents of the state are nearly half that of white residents. The administration wants to devote $1 billion of the ARPA money to housing, even split between home ownership programs and rental assistance. Read more


Same day voter registration: While the battles over changes to voting laws that advocates say will repress turnout are largely playing out in the South, political science professors Aaron Rosenthal of Simmons University and Erin O’Brien of UMass Boston say we could take one simple proactive step in Massachusetts to expand voter participation: enact legislation allowing same day voter registration. One concrete argument for doing so immediately: It would mean their students who return to campuses in September could vote in the September 14 preliminary election for Boston mayor. Otherwise, those who aren’t registered will likely be cut out, as current law requires registering at least 20 days before an election.   Read more




Jamey Tesler of Hingham was officially appointed state transportation secretary, Tuesday, after serving as acting secretary for six months. (The Enterprise)

Labor unions are lobbying for retroactive hazard pay for front-line workers, child tax credits, and housing stabilization to be prioritized in plans to use ARPA funding. (WGBH)

Advocates – again – hope to pass a “right to repair” law for electronics, to make it easier to get electronics fixed without going to the manufacturer. (Salem News)

Two state senators urge Gov. Charlie Baker to drop the state’s contracts with McKinsey because the consulting firm worked with Purdue Pharma to boost sales of addictive opioids. (Berkshire Eagle)

Open water enthusiasts say Gov. Charlie Baker should not restrict where they are allowed to swim. (Berkshire Eagle)


Boston City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley orders all council staff members to get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID testing. (Boston Herald)


Time to scrounge up your old masks. The CDC is recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, mask up indoors in areas of “substantial or high transmission.” In Massachusetts that means Barnstable County, where transmission is high, and Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket and Suffolk counties, where it is “substantial.” (Cape Cod Times) The CDC also updates its guidance to recommend all students and teachers wear masks in school this fall. (MassLive)

A big problem nationally? The areas most likely to fall under the new CDC mask guidance are the least likely to follow them. (New York Times

In Massachusetts, the number of COVID cases rose by 77 percent last week. (MassLive)


A year out from the midterm elections, Massachusetts’ US House delegation is stockpiling cash — led by House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal. (Associated Press)


About two people are evicted from their homes each day in Bristol County, the highest rate in Massachusetts, yet the region is one of the least equipped in terms of legal services. (New Bedford Light) Across the state, housing social services are preparing for a flood of evictions as the expiration of a national moratorium on evictions looms. (South Coast Today)

A proposal to allow happy hours to return is getting a mixed reception on Beacon Hill. (Salem News)


The latest pandemic surprise? More teachers aren’t retiring. (Metro West)


A new three-year residency program by the Huntington Theatre Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective will support emerging Black Theater in Boston. (WBUR)


Adrian Walker says Dan Mulhern, Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins’s first assistant — and her recommended choice to replace her — should get the appointment from Gov. Charlie Baker to fill out the remainder of her term if she’s confirmed as US attorney. (Boston Globe) Joyce Ferriabough Bolling says Rahsaan Hall, who directs the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, is the right one for the job. (Boston Herald)

The man Rollins would succeed, former US attorney Andrew Lelling, says don’t expect sweeping change from her, pointing out that the “guardrails will be a little narrower” for her as she operates under the direction of the Department of Justice in DC in contrast to the freer rein she has had as elected DA. (Boston Herald

Former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia begins the appeal process to challenge his conviction on federal corruption charges. (Herald News