A few months back Governor Kathy Hochul announced the transit highlights of the FY 2024 Budget, and the budget includes $15 million to fund a pilot program providing five fare-free bus routes in New York City.
The buses will begin providing New Yorkers with free rides starting this Sunday, September 24.
The legislation will only last six to twelve months–a much shorter time than the two-year pilot Hochul previously announced. According to Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, running the pilot program longer than a year would require the MTA to complete a federal environmental review, thus delaying the launch of the program altogether.
“The MTA is the life-blood of New York City, and we have made tremendous progress in returning ridership to pre-pandemic levels,” said Governor Hochul.
“With this Budget, the MTA will have the resources it needs to keep serving New Yorkers for years to come. I applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for this collaborative process that will provide stability to our transit systems and make clear that New Yorkers, regardless of their ZIP code, deserve access to reliable transit,” Hochul added.
In addition to the free buses, Governor Hochul will also take action to increase rider safety by expanding the NYC Automatic Bus Lane Enforcement (ABLE) program to cover additional violations that impede busways, improving bus service for riders and reducing the likelihood of accidents.
The pilot is a way to get New Yorkers back onto the bus system and study how fare-free service affects ridership, access, equity, and fare evasion.
The free buses will go into effect this Sunday, September 24, and include the following: Bx18A/B, B60, M116, Q4, and S46/96.
Once the pilot program is completed, Hochul reportedly expects the MTA to extend the free bus service into 2025. There’s also a free shuttle bus that takes you around Downtown Manhattan.