Main Streets subsidized public transit pilot
Note: The pilot program has ended. If you are an essential worker you may qualify for free Bluebikes passes.
This pilot program offered 1,000 Main Street employees preloaded MBTA and Bluebikes passes for May and June 2021. Over the initial four weeks, half of the program participants received cards loaded with $60, while the other half received cards loaded with $5. The second group subsequently received a second card loaded with $55.
We used ridership data, surveys, and interviews to learn about how people used the subsidies and if they drove less and rode public transit more.
Results of the pilot
Read about the results of the pilot:
WHAT WE LEARNED
- MBTA transit incentives increase MBTA ridership, even among those with car access. Participants with $60 passes rode the bus or subway an average of 8.29 times during the first four weeks of the program, compared to 2.05 rides for those with the $5 cards — an increase of 304.4%.
- Transit incentives reduced financial stress for Main Streets Districts employees. Participants time and again cited how the transit incentives reduced financial hardship they faced. It eased financial decisions and provided more support during this difficult time. In one example, a participant became homeless during the program. But, the preloaded card allowed them to continue going into work.
- People liked using Bluebikes, especially those without car access. People without car access took an average of almost 9 trips on Bluebikes, whereas people with car access used Bluebikes just 2.4 times during the eight-week program. Participants who used Bluebikes enjoyed riding them. The program did convert some Bluebikes skeptics to try the program and persist in using it beyond the free program period.
The pilot supported COVID-19 equitable recovery efforts. You can read about the results of the pilot in the "Read the Report" section.
Employees in Nubian Square, Three Squares (Jamaica Plain), Mission Hill, East Boston, and Fields Corner were encouraged to apply to the program for the following reasons:
- All five pilot Main Streets Districts are served by either an MBTA subway line or Bluebikes. All employees in the selected Main Streets are within walking distance of a Bluebikes station, bus route, and subway line. They can take a bus or subway line or use a Bluebikes station without having to worry about maintenance or carrying a lock.
- The MBTA and Bluebikes are safe, sustainable commuting options. Congestion is expected to increase post-COVID. It's a big issue for Main Streets small businesses. The program incentivizes a safe and sustainable alternative to driving to work.
- Fewer Main Streets employees driving means more space on the curb for driving customers. Employees who drive often park on the curb for long periods of time. Providing employees with a sustainable alternative means those spaces are freed up for customers.