Wu backs low-income MBTA fare
Eliminating fares has been one of her top priorities
BOSTON MAYOR Michelle Wu, who has made a fare-free MBTA one of her top priorities, on Monday said she supports passage of a law creating a reduced fare for low-income riders of the transit authority.
In remarks at a rally near Park Street Station, Wu didn’t distinguish between her two positions and implied the two could coexist together. Aides said later that the mayor is pursuing both simultaneously.
“The mayor supports fare-free transit and remains committed to her fare-free pilot program on three MBTA bus routes. While the city looks into the feasibility of expanding fare-free transit, low-income fares would give more Boston residents access to affordable and reliable transportation across the MBTA system,” said a statement issued by the mayor’s office.
Wu is using $8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to reimburse the MBTA for offering fare free service on three bus routes for two years.
The lack of savings illustrated a major drawback to eliminating fares on individual bus routes. Wu has indicated in the past that she would like to eliminate fares on all buses before moving on to other MBTA services, but her support for fare discounts for low-income riders suggests she might move in that direction if that effort picks up steam.
The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board backed a test of a low-income fare last year, but decided to leave the final decision on launching a pilot of the concept to the new board that replaced it last fall. The new board has shown little interest in the idea so far.
A bill is pending in the Legislature to create a low-income fare, but its outlook is far from certain. Gov. Charlie Baker in January 2021 vetoed a similar provision in a transportation bond bill because no funding source was provided. T officials estimate a low-income fare offering a half-price discount to anyone with an income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level could cost $100 million a year or more.In jumping on the low-income fare bandwagon, Wu appears to be signaling that eliminating fares is not the only way to reduce the cost of riding the T, her top priority.
“We know that for Boston to be a city for everyone, everyone’s got to be able to get where they need to go” she said at the rally Monday.