The Worcester Regional Transit Authority is staying fare-free until June 2024. The WRTA advisory board voted unanimously this morning to keep rides free for passengers for another year. This move makes the WRTA the longest-running fare-free regional transit system in the nation. The zero-fare coalition said this will bring financial relief and access to public transit to families and residents in 37 towns and cities across Worcester County. The WRTA first went fare-free back in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Because talk again is cheap,” board member Doug Belanger said. “There is a finite number of money available as we've been warned by our CFO, you can't keep using one time money for ongoing expenses. So it will be important as we are able to once again do a fare-free year, if you want to continue that, someone is going to have to come up with more funding and that's basically at the state and federal level in particular." 

This comes as a new report by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau shows the WRTA is the only urban regional transit authority in the state to meet and exceeded pre-pandemic ridership levels on its fixed-route buses.