Boston – Today, April 13, MassVOTE is excited to provide an update on “An Act to Establish Free Access to Ride to Elections in Massachusetts,” or the FARE Act. The FARE Act, which would make public transit free on election day, has rapidly gained a wide array of support. Since its introduction in February, 28 state legislators have co-sponsored the bill, while 39 municipal officials and 28 advocacy organizations have called for the act’s swift passage. Included below are comments from just a few individuals and organizations that have joined the movement to make public transit free on election day.
“We are ecstatic to see support growing for the FARE Act both inside and outside the State House,” said Division Leader Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence). “As much as we praise the increased voter turnout in the 2020 elections, our democracy did not work nearly as well as it should have for all. In communities like my own, Lawrence, Black and brown, low-income, and immigrant communities faced unnecessary barriers to the ballot box. Making public transit services, like the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, free on election day is one rapid, dramatic step the state can take to strengthen and expand our democracy.”
“It is critical that the State Legislature pass the FARE Act as soon as possible,” said Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “During last year’s election, cities across the Commonwealth saw low turnout among Black and brown, low-income, and immigrant communities. The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the greatest public health and financial burdens on these same communities only underscores the importance of addressing those inequities in Cambridge and throughout the state. In Cambridge, one of the ways we can increase voter turnout is by making MBTA subway and bus service free on election day.”
"It is clear that there is much work left to be done in ensuring equitable access to the ballot box for our Black, Latino, and low-income communities," said Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston). "It continues to concern me that in my own district, parts of Roxbury saw voter turnout rates as low as 42% in the 2020 General Election. 42%. That’s 26% below Boston’s average turnout rate, and 34% below the state’s average turnout rate. Voters like these face unnecessary barriers to the ballot box such as the distance to and accessibility of polling places. Passing the FARE Act and making public transit free on election day is one powerful step that we can take to ensure that all voices are heard and to address this inequity by making voting more accessible and inclusive for all.”
“By passing the FARE Act, the state would take a simple but powerful step to empower individuals and ease access to the polls,” said Isabel Gonzalez-Webster, Executive Director of Worcester Interfaith, a multi-issue, multi-racial community organization that works on neighborhood improvements, public safety, and education and youth. “Here in Worcester, hundreds, if not thousands, of people rely on WRTA bus service every single day. These riders, who are primarily Black, Latino, and/or low-income, depend on this service for their most basic needs, like commuting and grocery shopping. Making public transit free on election day would immediately aid these individuals, who have traditionally faced more barriers in getting to the polls than their white neighbors.”
"Ballot access should not be a partisan issue. While we are witnessing more attacks on the right to vote across the country, we in Massachusetts must take every step possible to ensure voter access," said Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). "Free public transit on Election Day is just one policy that will improve voter turnout. I am proud to sponsor this legislation with Leader Moran and Representative Tyler, and glad to see the bipartisan, bicameral support this legislation has gained."
The FARE Act would make bus, subway, and trolley service free for all state-wide primaries and elections. It would apply to the MBTA, as well as all of the state’s regional transit authorities. It was introduced as HD.2474 in the House of Representatives by Representatives Frank A. Moran and Chynah Tyler. In the Senate, it was introduced as SD.1557 by Senator Joe Boncore.
Dozens of communities across the country, like Dallas, New Orleans, and Kansas City, provide free public transit on election day. Yet the largest by far to do so is Los Angeles County, which is home to more than 10 million residents and 5 million registered voters. Since 2018, LA County has provided free bus and subway service for all state-wide primaries and elections. After the policy was implemented, bus and subway ridership rose by 5% on election day, emphasizing the policy’s success. Massachusetts must follow suit and pass the FARE Act immediately.
You can find the full list of FARE Act supporters on this webpage.