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Wu extends fare-free 28 bus pilot for two additional months as talks with MBTA continue

Boston Mayor Michelle Woo is extending the free pilot program on bus line 28 for another two months.

Bus 28, which travels from Mattapan Square to Ragles Station, was scheduled to start charging passengers again on January 1 after four months of waiving fares. The City of Boston began reimbursing Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for bus line fares in late August through federal aid funds to COVID-19.

The extension until February 28 comes as the Wu administration continues to work with the MBTA to make bus lines 28 and the other two bus lines, 23 and 29, free for two years starting in 2022 using $ 8 million in cash The municipality. US Federal Rescue Plan Act to Return MBTA.

Wu envisioned the longer pilots starting as early as Jan. 1, she told the Globe last week to ensure there would be no gap for 28 bus passengers. But its plan may be delayed because of a requirement by the Federal Transport Administration that tariff plans for tariffs lasting more than six months undergo official capital analysis “to determine if there is a different impact based on race, color or national origin,” according to an FTA spokesman.

The municipality’s extension of the Pilot 28 program gives Woo’s administration an additional two months to settle matters with the FTA without adversely affecting riders.

“Free transportation connects our communities, leads the number of passengers and facilitates traffic throughout the region,” Wu said in a statement. “I am excited to partner with MBTA to expand this successful ongoing pilot program and look forward to working with MBTA to build the public transportation system that truly serves the people of Boston and our local economy.”

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said city officials plan to meet with the FTA in early January to learn more about regulatory restrictions and find a way forward. Wu said she raised the issue with Transport Minister Pete Batijig while visiting the White House last week.

Since the city canceled bus fares on August 28, the number of passengers has increased. In the last week of February before the COVID-19 epidemic hit, the 28th was the third most popular MBTA bus, according to Agency data maintained by the State Department of Transportation. In mid-August this year, it was still the third bus in popularity and returned only 63 percent of its pre-epidemic passenger numbers. As of the week of December 13, the 28th was the most popular bus and regained 93 percent of the passengers before the plague.

The number of passengers on MBTA buses on weekdays remained at around 62 per cent of the number of passengers on the days before the plague.

By eliminating fares, the city hopes to increase access to public transport and increase bus reliability by allowing all doors to be accessed, which speeds up service. The MBTA and City Hall will publish a free 28-bus pilot assessment in February, including passenger reliability and service reliability data.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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