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Boston extends free bus fare program on three routes until March 2026

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu extends free bus fare program on three routes for another two years using federal pandemic relief funds.Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

MBTA riders who take buses on three highly trafficked routes will continue to ride for free for another two years, Boston Mayor Wu’s administration announced Tuesday.

Wu launched the program eliminating fares on routes 23, 28, and 29 in March 2022, with the pilot scheduled to run through the end of this month. Now, the mayor’s office says the city will use federal pandemic relief dollars to reimburse the MBTA for the cost of the program for an additional two years, making the routes free until March 2026. The price tag is about $350,000 per month, according to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.

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Wu strongly believes the pilot has produced positive results, and was eager to find the funds to continue the program.

“These have been the highest ridership routes; they are key corridors in the city, and we’ve seen so many benefits from faster boarding times and more reliability,” Wu told reporters at an unrelated event at City Hall Tuesday.

Phillip Eng, the general manager and CEO of the MBTA, thanked Mayor Wu and the city of Boston for their continued support of the program.

“We have a common goal in making mass transit more affordable,” Eng said in a statement. “Our combined efforts, from Boston’s fare-free bus program to Governor Healey’s proposed Low Income Fare Program, are benefitting communities who take all different modes of transit.”

Eng was referring to a proposal from Governor Maura Healey, included in her $58 billion budget plan announced last month, that would allocate $45 million to permanently lower fares for low-income T riders. The proposal would need approval by the state Legislature.

More than half of the riders on the three designated routes, which run through Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury, qualify as low-income. According to the city of Boston, the pilot program saved riders more than $6 million on more than 12 million trips since it started in the spring of 2022. About half of riders saved money from the program, on average about $35 a month, the city said; the other 50 percent of riders did not save because they continued to pay for a monthly pass or transfer to other routes or transportation methods.

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The initiative has brought the routes close to pre-pandemic ridership levels, according to the city and data from the MBTA. All three routes run along Blue Hill Avenue and go past schools, libraries, and public housing sites.

Wu has pushed to eliminate fares on public transit since her time on the campaign trail, arguing the benefits include increased reliability, efficiency, and convenience. In her recently launched Instagram series “Commute with Me,” Wu documents her experience as she joins different Boston residents on their daily commute on public transit.






Niki Griswold can be reached at niki.griswold@globe.com. Follow her @nikigriswold.