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Worcester area stays course on free buses but needs state support

Jenna Rose Ellis helped her daughter Amelia De Leon off a Worcester Regional Transit Authority bus in Worcester on Jan. 3, 2022. The WRTA went fare-free at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Re “Free buses mean more than just a free ride: Analysis also finds more passengers on several routes” (Metro, March 14): The benefits of fare-free buses highlighted in Boston’s recent study extend to other parts of the state. The Worcester Regional Transit Authority suspended fares at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, as did other transit agencies, and it has been a leader in continuing the suspension of fares while most others have resumed fare collection.

The WRTA soon will decide whether to continue providing fare-free transportation or revert to fare collection. Federal CARES Act funds have been used and can be used to replace fare revenue. Moving forward, an important factor will be state funding, which accounts for the largest share of the revenues regional transit authorities use for operating expenses. The Healey-Driscoll administration has proposed greater investments in regional transit authorities, and legislation has been filed to increase funding statewide for these services.


Bus fare of even a few dollars can be cost prohibitive for many who must juggle competing demands of rising food, utility, and rent costs. Transportation is an important social determinant of health, connecting people to essential jobs and services, so we must invest in it as a public good that directly affects the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Amie Shei

President and CEO

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts