New Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is pushing to make more buses free in the city, building on a so-far successful experiment with one bus route.
On Wednesday, her first full day as mayor, Wu asked the City Council for to make $8 million of federal funds available so Route 28 can continue to be free to riders for two years -- the fare-free pilot program was already extended through the end of 2021 last week.
The funding would also make two new routes fare-free for two years: the 23 and 29. All three routes reach Blue Hill Avenue, which the Wu administration noted has been called an important corridor to make bus ridership more appealing.
The Route 28 fare-free bus pilot program has shown success since it began in August. The MBTA has confirmed to NBC10 Boston that ridership on the 28 bus averaged 11,184 passengers per day in the first week of October, an increase of more than 3,400 since before the start of the free program.
Wu's office said that the fare-free program made Route 28 the most popular MBTA bus route, with ridership nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, while overall, bus and subway ridership on the MBTA is only at about half of its pre-pandemic levels on weekdays.
Earlier this month, a representative for Wu, then the mayor-elect, said she wanted to apply the lessons learned from the program to expand fare free transit.
"Mayor-elect Wu has been thrilled to ride the 28 bus in and hear from so many residents about the life-changing impacts of fare-free transportation. 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 representative said.