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MTA Fare Free Bus Pilot Launches on Five Routes Sunday, Sept. 24

New York City Transit
Updated Sep 22, 2023 7:45 p.m.

MTA Fare Free Bus Pilot Launches on Five Routes Sunday, Sept. 24 

Pilot Program Adds One Fare Free Bus Route in Each Borough; Bx18 A/B, B60, M116, Q4 LCL/LTD, and S46/96

Selected Routes Serve 43,900 Weekday Riders

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today issued a reminder that the fare free bus pilot is launching on Sunday, Sept. 24 on five routes, one in each borough, for a period of six to 12 months. Collectively, these bus routes serve 43,900 daily weekday riders. The routes were chosen based on their minimum overlap with other bus and subway routes to limit riders’ confusion, and based on whether those routes were served by buses equipped with available automatic passenger counters (APCs) to monitor ridership effectively. Other determining factors included fare evasion, service frequency, available capacity to address potential ridership increases, equity for low-income and economically disadvantaged communities, and access to employment and commercial activity.

“The MTA carefully selected one route in every borough to study potential benefits and impacts on ridership, operations and other factors, and the buses are ready to roll,” said NYC Transit Senior Vice President of Buses Frank Annicaro.

The pilot will allow the MTA to monitor the impact of fare free buses on ridership, quality of life issues, performance metrics and general operations. Comparable to other agencies with fare free buses, paratransit trips for customers who begin or end their trip within three-quarters of a mile of each of the fare free route areas will also be fare free.

The pilot also supplements a series of phased subway service increases previously announced in May, made possible by a $35 million contribution from the FY 2024 New York State Budget to boost subway service. The most recent subway service increase was in August for weekday midday service on the  and  lines and weekend service on the  and  lines.

Buses on routes included in the pilot program will be clearly marked "Fare Free" on destination signs, onboard digital signs, along with the decals inside the bus and covers on fareboxes and OMNY readers. Customers must pay their fare when connecting to other bus routes and subway lines.

“The MTA is the lifeblood of our city, helping millions of residents and visitors each day get where they need to go. It should be as safe, as accessible, and as affordable as possible to everyone,” said Representative Ritchie Torres. “The fare free bus pilot program is a major step forward in improving transit equity and expanding access to public transportation. I know countless essential workers and hardworking families in my district will benefit directly from this innovative opportunity and will appreciate having more money in their pocket.”

“Starting September 24th, the launch of the fare-free Q4 Local/Limited bus line in Queens will showcase the feasibility of no-cost transit for New York City bus commuters. It is my hope the success of this city-wide pilot program will inform how we can better work with all our partners in government to make life in New York City more affordable," said State Senator Leroy Comrie. "I must especially thank my colleagues in the legislature for their advocacy during the budget process, and the MTA and NYC Transit leadership for the willingness to test this pilot program."

"I am looking forward to the start of this pilot program, which will ensure access to transit options for more New Yorkers and encourage mass transit use at a time when, more than ever, we need to support a climate friendly, public transportation system that works for all our communities,” said State Senator Liz Krueger.

“In pursuit of equitable transportation, the MTA has embarked on a transformative journey, implementing the groundbreaking fare-free bus pilot program in partnership with the NY legislature,” said State Senator Robert Jackson. “This visionary initiative promises to rejuvenate our transportation network, ensuring affordability and safety for my constituents and improving community access. Its profound benefits will extend far beyond my district, benefiting our entire city."

“I commend MTA for beginning the fare-free pilot program, a service that will benefit thousands of daily commuters in our community,” said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “The five borough bus lines as part of the fare-free program will make transit options convenient and economical. We are heading in the right direction.”

“Our ultimate goal is to bring our public transportation system to a place where every New Yorker feels it is their best option to move through their city,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos. “That starts with these five fare free bus routes. This is just the beginning, I’ll see you on the Q4!”

“Investing in fare-free bus routes is a significant step towards a more equitable and accessible public transportation system,” said State Senator Luis Sepúlveda. “The Department of Transportation's announcement demonstrates a commitment to addressing the needs of diverse communities, ensuring that everyone has access to reliable and affordable transportation. By prioritizing factors such as ridership, equity, and access to employment, this pilot program sets the stage for a more inclusive future, where transportation barriers are dismantled, and opportunities for economic growth and mobility are expanded for all."

“Increasing access to public transportation is vitally important to neighborhoods and communities across New York City,” said State Senator Jose Serrano. “Starting Sunday, five MTA bus routes will begin FREE service through the Fare-Free bus pilot program secured in our state budget. I am excited that my senate district will have two routes, the BX18 and the M116. My sincere thanks to my colleagues in government and the MTA for ensuring this important program moves forward.”

“This pilot project by the MTA is an important and much needed step in making New York City faster, more efficient, and more equitable for everyone,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll. “We must continue to push for smart ways to ensure that all New Yorkers have a commute that is as easy and affordable as possible.”

“Today, as Staten Island’s S46/96 bus route takes a historic step forward with the fare-free pilot program, we are redefining the essence of community and connectivity,” said Assembly Member Charles D. Fall. “This isn’t just about easing transportation costs; it’s a testament to our unwavering commitment to serving every Staten Islander, especially those in disadvantaged communities. This transportation initiative is a commitment to ensuring a brighter and more connected future for every Staten Islander.”

“A win in the NYS 2023 Budget was the Fare-Free Pilot Program with the MTA, which allocates a free bus line for each borough, is finally here,” said Assembly Member Alicia L. Hyndman. “Beginning Sunday, September 24, 2023, Southeast Queens will benefit from this pilot program with the Q4 line servicing Jamaica, St Albans and Cambria Heights. The program will last from six to twelve months and will be a relief to constituents in every borough.”

“83% of New Yorkers say that cost of living is their number one concern,” said Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani. “It is about time that we finally provide our neighbors with the relief they deserve. By making these five routes fare-free, we will also be making bus transit faster, safer, and more universally accessible. These are the first steps we take as a state towards a future where no New Yorker is priced out of public transit.”

"Accessible public transportation is essential for New Yorkers, and the MTA's fare-free bus initiative plays a significant role in this endeavor," said Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell. "This initiative not only underscores our dedication to accessible public transportation but also highlights our commitment to widen employment opportunities, fuel economic growth, and cultivate a more inclusive and equitable community. I commend Assembly Member Mamdani and the MTA for actualizing this pilot program, and I am eager to witness the positive impact it will have on our community."

“I am excited about the pilot program that will eliminate fares on one bus route in each borough for at least the next six months,” said Assembly Member Latrice Walker. “The free Brooklyn route is the B60, which runs directly through my district and connects Canarsie to Williamsburg. Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and NYC Health and Hospitals/Woodhull are along the bus route. The pilot program will provide relief to commuters who often have to make difficult choices about how to spend their dwindling dollars. I look forward to the program’s success.”

“We are excited that the commuters in our district will take advantage of the free bus program,” said Assembly Member Clyde Vanel. “We will continue to work to improve our transportation system.”

“Our public transit system is the lifeblood of New York City, and expanding access to it is critical to ensure more riders can move around our city efficiently and effectively,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Making the Q4 bus route free for commuters is a boon for the residents of Southeast Queens who rely on it daily. I encourage residents to take advantage of this free route.”

"Piloting fare free bus service is a step forward for transportation equity in New York City," said NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "I appreciate that the MTA is piloting this program in Southeast Queens, much of which has long been excluded from the City's core transit network. I look forward to reviewing the results of the pilot and working with the MTA to maximize transit accessibility among New Yorkers who most need it."

"I commend Governor Hochul's announcement of the fare-free bus pilot program on the S46/96 route in my district,” said Council Member Kamillah M. Hanks. “This initiative will benefit the community and provide a significant advantage to the diverse population it serves, while improving mass transit options for the thousands of daily bus riders."

“I am in full support of the fare-free bus pilot program and I am happy that the B60, which serves parts of District 46, has been selected as Brooklyn’s fare-free route,” said Council Member Mercedes Narcisse. “I am confident that this program will help revitalize our local bus routes, grow ridership, and most importantly increase access to our public transportation system for low-income New Yorkers.”

“I’m excited about the introduction of the Fare Free Routes Pilot Program, as it is more than just a convenience, it will serve as another step towards creating equitable accessibility in the transportation system,” said Council Member Althea Stevens. “District 16 has historically been known as a transportation desert, and I'm grateful that one of the approved routes will take through District 16, as it optimizes daily traveling for community members. I can’t wait to see how this pilot program will allow us to reimagine the transportation system throughout the city!”

"I'm thrilled the State Legislature and the MTA Board has introduced fare-free bus service on five crucial routes throughout our city, beginning this Sunday,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams. “The Q4 bus route, which serves Cambria Heights and links our community to Downtown Jamaica, holds incredible promise in fostering smoother travel experiences and bolstering the bonds within our neighborhoods. I can't wait to witness the positive impact of this fare-free pilot on our community."

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on our city’s buses to get to their destination but as the cost of living increases, it is putting additional financial strain on riders who need public transportation to commute from point A to point B,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “The Fare-Free Bus Pilot program is an opportunity to change that by offering riders one free bus line per borough and highlighting the need for free and low-cost fare options in our city. Traveling to your destination should not break the bank and my hope is that the success of this program will lead to an expansion to include additional bus routes and serve as a model for other metropolitan cities. I want to thank the MTA for the rollout of this program and commitment to eliminating barriers to riders’ access to public transportation.”

“Public transit can be an engine of freedom and opportunity, but only when we do it right,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “The fare-free bus pilot is an example of investing in public transit the right way, with the clear intention of extending access to all. Thank you to Governor Hochul and the MTA for partnering on this program that will hopefully serve as a model for many more investments into making our city’s transit system more equitable and affordable for all.”

“The ability to get around the city we all call home should be a right, not a privilege. But far too many New Yorkers are shut out from the opportunities that this city offers simply because of their socioeconomic status, furthering the vicious cycle of poverty,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “This pilot program has the tremendous potential to be a boost for thousands of Queens residents and I look forward to working with the MTA and all our partners to ensure it’s as successful and informative as possible

The bus routes in the six-to-12-month pilot are:

Bx18 A/B: Operating daily 5am to 1am in a loop serving Undercliff Avenue or Sedgwick Avenue, Grand Concourse/E 170 Street, Macombs Road, Tremont Avenue, 168 Street and 170 Street. It serves Morris Heights, Highbridge and Mount Eden neighborhoods and connects to the   trains and several other bus routes. Nearby major employers and institutions include Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center and Bronx Community College.

B60: The B60 bus route operates at all times between Williams Ave/Flatlands Ave in Canarsie and Williamsburg Bridge Plaza. The route operates primarily along Rockaway Ave and Wilson Ave and serves Canarsie, Brownsville, Ocean Hill, Bushwick and Williamsburg. It makes connections to the trains and several other bus routes. Major employers and institutions covered on the route include Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull.

M116: This bus route operates daily 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. between W 106 St /Broadway and E 120 St/Pleasant Ave. The route primarily operates along 116 St, Manhattan Ave and W 106 Stand serves Harlem, East Harlem and Morningside Heights. The route makes connections to the  trains and several bus routes. Major employers and institutions covered on the route include St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University and the East River Plaza Mall.

Q4 LCL/LTD: The Q4 LCL/LTD bus route operates between the Jamaica Ctr-Parsons/Archer  subway station and Linden Boulevard/235 St. Some buses operate as Limited-Stop during morning and afternoon rush hours on weekdays. The route primarily operates on Linden Boulevard, Merrick Boulevard and Archer Ave and serves Jamaica Center, South Jamaica, St. Albans and Cambria Heights. It makes connections to the  trains, the St. Albans Long Island Rail Road station and several bus routes. Major employers and institutions covered on the route include Jamaica Center, York College and St. Albans VA Hospital.

S46/96: Operating between South Ave, West Shore Plaza Shopping Center and the St. George Ferry Terminal, the S46 local route operates at all times and the S96 Limited route operates on weekdays only in the peak period, peak direction. The route primarily operates along Castleton Ave, Victory Boulevard, Walker St/Brabant St and South Ave. It serves St. George, Tompkinsville, West New Brighton, Port Richmond, Elm Park, Arlington, Bloomfield and Chelsea and makes connections to the SIR and Staten Island Ferry. Major employers and institutions covered on the route include the New York Empire Outlets, Richmond University Medical Center, West Shore Plaza and the Forest Promenade Shopping Plaza.