Three Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority bus routes in Lawrence will be fare-free for the next two years, city officials announced Monday.
The routes covered are MVRTA routes 34 (Prospect Hill), 37 (Beacon Street), and 85 (downtown shuttle). All routes originate at the Buckley Transportation Center, the MVRTA’s bus hub in the city.
TODAY Free Bus in Lawrence - @COL1853 in partnership w/ @MVRTA_ announced, beginning today, bus fares on 3— Dan Rivera (@danrivera01843) September 9, 2019
MVRTA rte in downtown and throughout the city will be free. It will be paying for
riders for 2 yrs, total $225K. Will be paid by free cash reserves #makinglawrencebetter pic.twitter.com/Q1mGMw56Fu
Lawrence will tap its cash reserves to pay for the service, according to Mayor Daniel Rivera. The tab: $225,000.
“It was short money,” said Rivera, who also credited the City Council for backing the trial.
The routes pass through some of the poorest Census tracts in the state, Rivera said, and they serve an important role in getting Lawrence residents to and from their jobs. They move about 92,000 people per year, he said.
It comes eight months after Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, in a Boston Globe opinion piece, advocated for making MBTA service free.
Rivera said subsequent talks with the MVRTA resulted in an agreement for the city to pay the transit authority for the lost fares on the route over the next two years.
Fares on the routes are currently $1.25 cash or $1 if customers pay with a Charlie Card. Passengers will have to pay standard fares if they use any of the MVRTA’s other 13 routes that serve Lawrence and nearby towns.