BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu held a press conference outside Ruggles Station in Roxbury to announce the re-introduction of the "Freedom to Move Act," a federal bill that aims for fare free public transportation in the United States.
If passed, the bill would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to award five-year grants to states, local governments, transit agencies, and non-profit organizations in both rural and urban areas to cover the missing fare revenue.
In addition to the 25 billion in funding to support the grants, Senator Markey said the Freedom to Move Act would also make investments in the safety and quality of public transportation, particularly in low-income and historically underserved communities. This would include accessibility improvements, more frequent service, and placement of pedestrian and bike shelters.
Elected officials were joined by Stacy Thompson of the Cambridge-based LivableStreets Alliance, who shared a few words on how free transit programs are working.
"The reality is free transit is working. We are seeing massive transit improvements in Boston, Merrimack Valley, and Worcester— these systems are bucking the trends of downward transit ridership that was happening before the pandemic," Thompson said.
The press conference comes around the one year mark of the City of Boston's free bus pilot program, along the bus routes 23, 28, and 29. According to the officials, ridership since the program began has gone up by 35-percent, more than double the increase on other services from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
One bus rider named Connie Forbes was in attendance to offer her testimony on how the pilot program is going.
"Everything I've seen so far for this program is fantastic. This should be expanded to other parts of the city, the Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan lines are really high family lines, people who have kids in strollers— and having that ability to get on through the doors where they need to, it's been great," Forbes said.