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Reader Poll: Should the MBTA Buses Be Free?

The concept of a free MBTA bus system has been gaining momentum as traffic and transit problems continue to worsen in the Boston area.

At-large City Councilor Michelle Wu has been arguing for free buses since early last year, but now the concept is being discussed in wider circles, as evident by a recent article in the Boston Globe.

Those in favor of a free MBTA bus system think this will decrease traffic as more people will opt to ride a free bus, and point to examples where this is already working for other cities such as Lawrence, MA and Kansas City, MO.

Those against a free bus system say the MBTA cannot afford to lose this revenue while in the midst of trying to improve service. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the Globe, “I’d like to provide a bus service that’s good enough that people are willing to pay for it, rather than concede that service is terrible and we should offer it for free.”

Others are suggesting a middle route with staggered pricing to offer discounts to, for example, low-income riders.

What do you think? Should the MBTA buses be free? Or is that not the solution to our transportation woes? Vote in our poll and add your comments in the section below!

Web polls are unscientific and reflect only those who choose to participate. NorthEndWaterfront.com polls do not have any official significance and are only intended for the interest of our readers.

10 Replies to “Reader Poll: Should the MBTA Buses Be Free?

  1. I think that the MBTA needs to improve the transportation. to prove the lines will stop breaking down and that it is dependable and reliable to use for commuters to begin with. They continue to raise the prices and we se new stations on some of the lines but not in the dependability with delays and having to use shuttle busses as lines break down. stop raising the price and fix what is needed to be fixed. Then they will see an increase of commuters; so their revenue will go up.

  2. The long suffering T users should be $ paid to commute on this crap shoot known as the MBTA.This incompetent agency would screw up a cup of coffee.

  3. So the drivers will be volunteer and work for nothing? Until this is true, nothing is truly free. Eventually debt won’t cover everything.

  4. The MBTA has had so many problems , I don’t think free bus rides will cure the problem. They
    need plenty of cash to correct all their existing issues.

    1. The answer can’t always be “more money”. Sometimes, any given entity just needs to do a better job with the money they are given.
      If I’m doing a poor job, my boss or my company doesn’t give me more money to try to improve my performance.

  5. There are a couple logic fallacies being parroted – in the comments and in the article.

    Starting with Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack:
    > “I’d like to provide a bus service that’s good enough that people are willing to pay for it, rather than concede that service is terrible and we should offer it for free.”

    Nobody is saying that we should concede to poor service. It’s not a binary (bad+free OR good+expensive). We can and should provide good service regardless of the cost.

    Then JOAN OF ARC:
    > “I don’t think free bus rides will cure the problem”
    Free busses won’t fix all of the MBTA’s problems. Nor does it aim to.

    My biggest takeaways:
    1. The majority of bus trips include a subway transfer. So the majority will pay the exact same fare under this system as they do today.
    2. Removing fares on busses will significantly improve service by allowing rear door boarding and eliminating the tedious wait for fare collection. Ultimately, this will increase ridership including rides that include a subway transfer.

    Here’s a great twitter thread on the subject:

  6. There’s a huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to mention.

    The issue with the bus is that most people do not want to ride the bus. Money has nothing to do with it.

    Most people don’t want to wait on the side of the road and then be jammed in with a bunch of strangers. It can be free or $5 per ride and most people will still use their car. Id be willing to say that most people would rather be in traffic in their own comfortable car than riding in a bus.

  7. I get it, but come on. Another politician with a foolish idea. Who is going to pay for the bus ? The answer is, us. Your going to pay one way or another. A tax labeled as something else, a
    a increase on a current tax, like gas. You get nothing for nothing in the commonwealth . They don’t do that. Don’t be fooled by an idea.

  8. This a sop for managerial incompetence and years of using the MBTA patronage machine. It is really a taxpayer subsidized service that the City has mismanaged and destroyed. Making it free won’t fix the basic problem of incompetent management. Only preserve it. It’s CEO is a patronage professional and it’s President is a Political Science major. This a a engineering problem. It’s a common tactic to promise a free ride and cover the tracks with debt and kick the can down the road. Look for Michelle Wu’s degree in Economics and you won’t find it. So how this paid for will come out of your pockets.

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