For Immediate Release
Contact: Reginauld Williams, Communications Director
617-426-1228, x 102, firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON — March 24 — Making Massachusetts buses free would improve operations, advance equity, and benefit the environment – all at a relatively low cost to the MBTA and other regional transit systems, according to the latest briefs by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget). The Does It Make Sense to Collect Fares? series, written by MassBudget senior analyst Phineas Baxandall, brings together key data that reveals the positive equity implications free buses would have in the Commonwealth. Most notably, the series finds the potential to make transit more efficient, faster, and convenient for riders.
“Bus fares make little sense. If we started from scratch, we wouldn’t have them,” said Baxandall. “As we look to create a more equitable, cleaner transportation system post-COVID, free buses are a quick win we could put in place immediately with broad public support.”
- 42 percent of MBTA bus riders report incomes of less than 60 percent of the area median; among many Regional Transit Authorities, strong majorities of riders report incomes below $25,000.
- Fares significantly impact travel choices for very low-income riders. When Lawrence, Massachusetts decided in 2019 to use $225,000 in city funds to make three bus routes fare-free for two years, ridership shot up about 20 percent.
- Free buses can help close the racial gaps in economic opportunity and make the collection of public funds more equitable.
- Reduce bus idling and cut the time that a bus engine runs to complete a trip (also creating faster trips for riders).
- Encourage people not to purchase a vehicle, or for a household to own one car instead of two.
- Incentivize transit-oriented development and compact land use patterns which reduce emissions.
MassBudget’s latest series comes at a time where proposals to eliminate bus and other public transit fares have multiplied across the policy landscape. Massachusetts has seen multiple, successful fare-free examples in recent years, and transit authorities have eliminated bus fares during the first months of the pandemic. In Congress, Massachusetts members of the House and Senate have sponsored bills to encourage ending fares. In the State House, the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation recently proposed a bill to eliminate fares on public buses.