Wu extends fare-free bus pilot another 2 months
No deal yet with MBTA on going beyond 6 months
BOSTON MAYOR Michelle Wu extended the fare-free pilot on the Route 28 bus for another two months as she tries to work out an arrangement with the MBTA that would allow the service to run longer.
The move to extend the pilot from the end of December to the end of February indicates no agreement has been reached despite ongoing negotiations with the MBTA and Wu broaching the matter with US Transportation Pete Buttigieg on a recent trip to the White House.
Wu won City Council approval to spend $8 million in federal funding to eliminate fares for two years on the 28, 29, and 23 bus routes. Former Boston acting mayor Kim Janey had launched a four-month fare free pilot on the 28 bus in September, which was scheduled to run out on December 31. City officials say they will now use a portion of the $8 million to extend the 28 bus pilot through February.
Wu’s plan for two-year, fare-free bus pilots ran into a snag with Federal Transit Administration guidelines for pilot projects. Under FTA guidelines, any pilot project that extends beyond six months is considered permanent and requires a fare equity analysis to determine if there is a disparate impact on riders on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
Wu raised the issue with Buttigieg on a recent trip to Washington but there is no indication yet that any sort of waiver is in the works.In a press release issued by Wu’s office on Tuesday, both the mayor and T General Manager Steve Poftak were quoted speaking enthusiastically about the Route 28 bus pilot and its extension for another two months. Neither addressed what will happen at the end of the two months.
The 28 bus runs from Mattapan Square up Blue Hill Ave to Nubian Square and Ruggles. During the current pilot period, Wu’s office said ridership has reached 92 percent of pre-pandemic levels, while bus ridership overall is at just under 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels.