A Boston Transportation Department study says riders on a fare-free 28 bus were able to get on board faster - especially at Nubian Square - and even just felt the bus was more reliable and safer.
But while the study found that the amount of time riders spent getting on 28 buses decreased, the study does show that the time it took an average 28 bus to complete its route actually increased over the course of the initial fare-free pilot. However, the department says it did not study factors that might have led to that, such as changes in overall traffic patterns along Blue Hill Avenue.
BTD says that because of the $500,000 pilot - recently extended another two years and now including the 22 and 23 buses with roughty $8 million in city funding - the 28 is now at 99% of its pre-pandemic passenger loads, and got there while other routes are still showing significantly lower ridership.
Route 28 ridership increased dramatically (38%) after the start of the pilot, experiencing up to 4,000 additional trips per weekday, compared to only a 15%
increase in systemwide bus ridership.
Decreased boarding time was particularly pronounced at Nubian Square because without a fare, bus drivers could let passengers get on through the rear door as well. Passengers said the buses felt safer in part because the removal of fares meant no arguments between drivers and people who just didn't want to, or couldn't, pay.
However, the study also showed that the fareless buses drew more new riders away from walking and bicycling than from car riding.
Interviews with riders showed, on average, greater satisfaction with the service, BTD says, adding that even riders who effectively did not save any money with the free-fare bus, because they had to transfer to buses that still require fares, felt they were saving money. The department says some people would get off the 28 and then walk to their destination, rather than continue on a bus that does require fares. It adds that the no-fare policy also increased usage of the Ride.
Via Chris Friend, who critiques the report.