The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many inequities in our society. From the virus predominately affecting people of color to essential workers not having the luxury of working from home — thus jeopardizing their health and safety.
Many essential workers who have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic have relied heavily on public transportation.
Now a new pilot program in East Boston and other neighborhoods heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis will make public transportation more equitable for essential workers.
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey announced this week that the City of Boston is piloting a new program to offer up to a $60 credit for MBTA and Bluebikes passes for 1,000 employees who work in Eastie’s Main Streets District, as well as employees in four other Main Streets Districts.
City officials have begun registering employees in Main Streets Districts in Eastie, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Nubian Square, and Fields Corner for the pilot program. The registration will end on April 19.
These five Main Street districts are all served by MBTA subway and Bluebikes stations.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential workers have continued to utilize public transportation because they have been unable to work from home,” said Janey. “I’m proud to launch this pilot program with the MBTA and Bluebikes to learn more about the impacts on commuter patterns when the cost of public transit is covered. And as more workers begin in return to workplaces, making transit more accessible is critical to our equitable recovery from the pandemic.”
Janey said the goal of the program is to incentivize employees returning to work and workers who currently drive to work to use public transit. With an expected increase in post-COVID-19 traffic, the City of Boston is piloting this incentive program to help alleviate small business districts of congestion and free up curb space for local neighborhood customers. The pilot program also seeks to lessen vehicular traffic to help reduce its environmental impact.
“We are excited to partner with our local Main Street Districts to pilot free public transit options for those working in Boston’s neighborhoods,” said Transportation Commissioner Greg Rooney. “Creating incentives to use public transit or bike to work options helps our economy, our environment and our local businesses. As more workers plan on restarting their commute, the Boston Transportation Department is committed to exploring creative ways to reduce traffic, carbon emissions and support Boston’s workers.”
The city managed pilot program is aimed at measuring how financial incentives for public transit impact commuting behavior and will be phased over the next two months.
Of the 1,000 qualified workers, some individuals will be randomly selected to get an MBTA pass with the full $60 credit loaded, and the remainder of the individuals will receive smaller stipends over time, which will end up totaling $60.
Bluebikes pass-holders will be able to take unlimited trips during the two-month period. Bluebikes trips must be completed within 45 minutes to avoid usage charges. There is no obligation to continue paying for the Bluebikes pass once the two months are over.
Data from the pilot program will be used to supplement the city’s long-term transportation demand management strategy.
To learn more about the pilot or to sign up for the program, please visit: boston.gov/FREEride or text FREEride to 866-396-0122.