WRTA votes to continue fare-free operations
Decision will be reviewed in another 6 months
THE ADVISORY BOARD of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority voted on Thursday to extend fare-free operations at least another six months until early next year.
The vote was unanimous, although the board chair, William Lehtola, and the authority’s administrator, Dennis Lipka, opposed the move. Lehtola abstained on the vote.
The move is another victory for those pushing to make more and more transit services free. The fare-free movement has been making some gains across Massachusetts, but it is facing strong resistance from some transit administrators. The MBTA, for example, is considering a fare-free bus pilot requested by Acting Mayor Kim Janey, but overall the authority and its oversight board would prefer to reduce fares for those with low incomes. Such a policy would not be possible until a new fare collection system is installed over the next few years.Worcester went fare free in March last year, which allowed passengers to board at all doors and more easily maintain social distancing. Fare collections were scheduled to resume in July, but the board decided on Thursday to put off any action until December.
Officials said it’s unclear whether the federal aid , which has been used to offset losses due to COVID, can now be used to cover losses due to a policy decision to not collect fares. The WRTA spokeswoman said fares bring in $3.5 million a year.