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Zero Fare Buses and the Green Worcester Plan
Dear Members of the Worcester City Council,
On behalf of Mass Audubon, we would like to resubmit our letter addressed to the City of Worcester and the authors of the Green Worcester Plan containing our support and suggestions for future drafts of the Green Worcester Plan. We are very pleased to see this plan moving forward and wish to note that a fare free approach for the regional bus system is one of the recommended policies in the Green Worcester Plan.
Consequently, we would also like to announce our support for a Fare-Free WRTA. The Worcester Chamber of Commerce recently testified in support for extending this policy as did the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. The Worcester Regional Transit Authority has extended the Fare-Free policy for just one month and their Advisory Board is weighing the options. During a recent meeting of the WRTA Advisory Board, City Councilor Gary Rosen presented a strong case for extending this approach to provide needed public transit options and grow ridership. We applaud Councilor Rosen’s leadership on this issue.
We recommend extending the Fare-free policy until more information is available about Federal and State level subsidiaries that may become available due to the commitment of President Biden and his administration to addressing climate change impacts. Increasing the use of public transportation is a vital component. We also look forward to learning more about the financial analysis the advisory board requested concerning the cost –benefit of investing in a new fare collection system at this time. In the 2018 WRTA budget, according to the WRRB report, Federal support was at 19%, State support at 46%, member assessments contributed 20% and fares brought in only 14%. The hope is that greater subsidies are coming for mass transit and fare income would not be essential to such a vital urban transit system. We urge city leaders to work closely with our Congressman James McGovern who is a strong advocate for public transit and climate action.
A well- used public transportation system will reduce the number of individual automobiles on our road as well as provide an important public service. We support developing low-carbon modes of transportation as we face the climate crisis. Not only does a Fare-Free WRTA help with lowering greenhouse gases, it provides immense opportunity for low-income residents and those without a car, making it an initiative that addresses both the environment and equity. We value the support of City Council members and local advocates who have been pushing for this citywide policy.
We want to thank all the City Council members and those working on the Green Worcester Plan. We value your work and look forward to working together to make Worcester one of America’s greenest cities.