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It’s Official: Boston, MBTA Announce Three Free Bus Routes for Mattapan and Dorchester

A route 28 bus advertising the fare-free pilot passes through Grove Hall on Blue Hill Avenue on October 5, 2021.

A route 28 bus advertising the fare-free pilot passes through Grove Hall on Blue Hill Avenue on October 5, 2021.

Mayor Wu joined MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak this morning to announce a formal agreement to make three bus routes in Dorchester and Mattapan fare-free for a two-year period, starting next month.

"The three bus routes that the City of Boston has been working on in collaboration with the MBTA – the 23, the 28, and the 29 – will be fare-free for two years starting in March," announced Mayor Wu – first in English, then again a second time in Spanish – at a press conference on Blue Hill Avenue this morning.

The program will expand on an existing pilot that has suspended fare collections on the 28, the state’s busiest bus line, which runs on Warren Street and Blue Hill Avenue between the Ruggles Orange Line station and Mattapan Square. That pilot was initiated last September, under Mayor Janey's administration, and Mayor Wu pledged to expand the program to these two other routes in the neighborhood on her first day in office last fall.

Wednesday's press conference also included a testimonial from Peggy James, a Mattapan resident and regular rider of the 28.

"For it to be free is just a gift that keeps giving. When I get on the bus, nowadays, everybody gets on, they're calm, there's no hassle, there's no aggravation about having to stand in line wait for someone with money to come on the bus, none of those little teeny things that can turn a person's day a little sour... It's a wonderful thing, an absolutely wonderful thing," said James.

The other two bus routes in Wu’s proposal each share portions of their routes with the 28, through neighborhoods with high densities of transit-dependent households.

The 23, which ranks among the T’s 10 busiest bus routes, runs from Ruggles to the Ashmont Red Line station via Warren Street.

And the 29, which runs between the Jackson Square Orange Line stop and Mattapan Square, runs along Blue Hill Avenue and the new Columbus Avenue busway.

Wu also noted that the new fare-free bus routes would be a precursor to the city's future plans for dedicated, center-running bus lanes on Blue Hill Avenue.

"We are looking to really have a design led by community that would ensure that our buses move in a fast and reliable way on this route, and these three routes all connect to Blue Hill Ave. to make sure that people can get to their schools, the YMCA, churches, Boys and Girls Club, universities, and restaurants and small businesses along the way," said Mayor Wu.

At the end of the press conference, a reporter asked the Mayor whether she hoped the program could be a first step towards an entirely fare-free MBTA system.

"Absolutely," said Mayor Wu. "We've been talking about that for a long long time... we are in communication with several other municipalities in the region as well, as they are looking to potentially start fare-free pilots as well."

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