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Boston is finding ways to make transit free

Words by Tess Becker

A handful of US cities started fare-free programs for their public transit during the pandemic.

One such city is Boston, which has gone completely fare-free on three of its bus lines that serve many low-income people and people of color, expanding a program already in place on one line.

Ridership on those lines is about double what it was the year prior, and also up since before the pandemic whereas most other MBTA lines are down system-wide.

“I think what's so exciting about this is that it doesn't look all that different. But for the people who are using free buses, it feels very different,” Stacy Thompson, executive director of the transit advocacy group Livable Streets said. “And what that means is that when it is pouring rain outside, when it's snowing, you can get on the bus faster; the bus moves faster; there's more money in your pocket if you're not making a transfer and that's your only ride.”

Fare-free programs, while already awesome for people trying to save money, also save time because no one has to pay at the front of the bus. It eliminates fare evasion and its related enforcement, which is costly in and of itself and also tends to mostly affect the people least able to pay fines. It also incentivizes people to use public transit which is better for the environment than individual cars.

The US capitol, Washington D.C. is also looking into implementing a fare-free program for most of its transit. 

“These programs were sparked by opportunities to bolster transit's role as a social equalizer, evenhandedly providing access to jobs, health care, education and opportunity,” said Art Guzzetti, vice president of mobility initiatives and public policy at the American Public Transportation Association.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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