The Worcester Regional Transit Authority is expected to vote Thursday on an extension of fare-free service that has been in place since the start of the pandemic.

A new report by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau shows the WRTA is the only urban regional transit authority in the state which has met and exceeded pre-pandemic ridership levels on its fixed-route buses.

The bureau has released a series of reports on the WRTA in recent years. The most recent shows in 2019, the WRTA’s routes saw nearly 3 million unlinked passenger trips, a metric which refers to the number of passengers counted each time they board a public transportation vehicle. The number dropped to less than 2 million in 2020 but in 2022, it had risen to more than 3.5 million.

"They are vastly outperforming the other regional transit authorities and transit authorities like the MBTA in Massachusetts,” said research bureau executive director and CEO Paul Matthews. “They are at a recovery level of about 140% compared to some of the other institutions. Like, the "T" I think is at about 61% and the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority is at about 81%. So the recovery rate has been terrific and it’s due to the services and presumably not having fares."

The WRTA Advisory Board will meet Thursday morning. The Zero Fare Coalition said it's expected they'll vote to approve the audit and finance committee’s budget recommendations, including the fare-free extension.