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Boston’s 28 bus will remain free for an extra month after coming in under budget

The Route 28 bus has been involved in a three-month pilot program.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A three-month pilot program providing free transit on Boston’s 28 bus since August 29 will be extended an extra month, according to Boston’s Department of Transportation.

The City of Boston allocated $500,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to reimburse the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for fares during the pilot, and a city spokesman said there is enough room left in the budget to continue another month, through Dec. 31.

The 28 bus runs between the MBTA’s Ruggles Station in Roxbury to the Mattapan Station in Mattapan Square.

Since the MBTA made it free to ride the 28 bus, the number of passengers has surged.

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During the week of Oct. 25, the bus had 92 percent of its prepandemic weekday ridership, according to MBTA data analyzed by TransitMatters, a transportation advocacy group. That’s up from 68 percent during the last week of August.

The entire bus and subway system is experiencing 53 percent of prepandemic weekday ridership.

Free transit and how to pay for it became a central issue of debate during the mayoral race.

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu has been a big proponent of the Free 28 pilot, and wants to keep the fare program permanent. During the campaign, Wu proposed expanding the current free 28 bus pilot project to include two other bus lines — the 66 and the 116 — using grant funding.

A transition spokesman said Wu will be working with the MBTA and city staff to continue the pilot and expand it.

“She’s eager to apply the lessons learned from this pilot program to expand fare-free transit across Boston, making it easier for residents to get to work and school, supercharging our economic recovery, and making Boston healthy and connected,” the spokesman said via e-mail.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her @taydolven.