“This allows us to gather even more data so we can perform a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation”
Recent Mayor Kim Janey gave a parting transit gift to Bostonians in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury when she extended the MBTA’s free 28 Bus route pilot until the end of the year.
The program, which cost $500,000, increased ridership to 92% of that route’s average capacity before COVID-19. Because riders don’t have to pay a fare, the buses on the route were able to use every door to load and unload, generally speeding up the process, according to the city.
Janey announced on Nov. 9 that the pilot was under-budget, leaving enough to fund an additional month.
“Extending the pilot through the end of the calendar year allows us to gather even more data so we can perform a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation of the pilot’s effects on ridership and the transit network,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said.
Janey, who served as acting mayor after Marty Walsh accepted a position in Joe Biden’s cabinet, announced the pilot during a candidate forum in May. At the time, the frontrunner for her job was City Councilor Michelle Wu, who had been the first among her peers to call for free public transit throughout the city.
Wu never lost her place as the frontrunner, while Janey was unable to survive the September preliminary election. As of Nov. 16. Wu will have been sworn as mayor and so far, she has vowed to continue, if not expand the free 28 Bus.
Last summer, Wu’s office and Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy released a study that suggested it would only cost about $1 million annually to keep that route free, while also making the 66 and 116 buses free.
Despite the glowing words from Poftak, state support would likely need governor Charlie Baker’s blessing, and so far he does not seem eager to pay for free transit.