On March 22, 2022, Mayor Michelle Wu, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and former Acting Mayor Kim Janey hosted a press conference at the Reggie Lewis Center at Roxbury Community College(RCC) to celebrate the launch of fare-free bus service for the 23, 28, and 29 bus lines.
Interim President Jackie Jenkins-Scott introduced the elected officials, who were joined by current RCC students Alberto Castro and Andrea Jonas.
Both Castro and Jonas rely on public transportation for school, work, and other obligations. “Free transportation is important to us, and you guys are changing the community by doing this,” said Jonas. “You are making a big difference.”
Through the fare-free bus program, Boston residents can ride the 23, 28, and 29 bus lines, free of charge, through February 29, 2024. During her tenure as acting mayor, Kim Janey ran a 6-month pilot version of the program for the 28 bus route. The pilot program resulted in a 38% increase in bus ridership and an additional 4,000 trips per day. The new program is funded with some of the City’s federal CARES money.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is co-sponsoring a bill with Senator Ed Markey that would create a $5 billion competitive grant program to help expand Boston’s free ridership program and enable other US cities to enact similar programs.
“The best collaborations are those that are community-driven, and government endorsed and invested in,” said Congresswoman Pressley “What you are seeing here today is policy in action. It is our job as people in government to first and foremost meet the basic needs of people. And this is a basic essential need.”
Mayor Michelle Wu, who arrived at the Reggie Lewis Center via the 23 bus with Interim President Jenkins-Scott, Castro, Jonas, and Janey, has first-hand experience relying on public transportation.
“If you have to get all these things done and transportation is an extra cost or a barrier, then you start to ration what you have to do, “ said Wu. “You start to jam things together in ways that are inconvenient. Now, making those multiple trips to school, to home, to pick up the kids, without having to worry about how that will impact your ability to pay rent or bills, that’s the ultimate goal.”
RCC students benefit significantly from the fare-free program. As of fall 2021, 46%
of RCC students reside in Dorchester, Roxbury, or Mattapan—many students from these
neighborhoods travel to and from classes using the fare-free bus routes. Although
all RCC students have access to discount MBTA monthly passes, eliminating the cost
of transportation altogether removes one of the non-academic barriers to degree completion.
“When we choose to make an investment in our people, in our residents and make it so that everyone fundamentally has the right to access every opportunity in Boston, that’s how we actually get to a city for everyone,” said Wu.
Visit RCC's YouTube page to watch the full press conference.
Jordan Emily Smock