The FARE Act
In February 2021, Sen. Joe Boncore, Rep. Frank Moran, and Rep. Chynah Tyler introduced the FARE Act: "An Act to Establish Free Access to Ride to Elections in Massachusetts" (SD.1557 in the Senate and HD.2474 in the House). Under the FARE Act, individuals would be able to ride public transit systems, like buses and subways, for free on state primary and general election days. The FARE Act would apply to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), as well as the state's regional transit authorities, meaning that voters across the Commonwealth would be able to ride for free on election day and have their voices heard. This would prove especially beneficial in the state's Black and brown, low-income, and immigrant communities, who face more barriers to the ballot box and turn out at lower rates.
Empower underrepresented communities
In the 2020 general election voter turnout reached incredible heights...in some parts of the state. In suburban, predominantly white, wealthy communities, turnout reached 90% or more. But in the state's urban, diverse, lower-income communities, like Springfield, Lawrence, and New Bedford, voter turnout barely surpassed 50%. Additionally, the residents of these cities are more likely to depend on public transit than suburban residents are. In Massachusetts, furthermore, 25% of Black households and 27% of Hispanic households do not own a car. The FARE Act would boost voter turnout in these communities by breaking down institutional and fincancial barriers currently in place.
The FARE Act would make most public transit options free on election day for all of the state's transit authorities. This includes not just the MBTA, which serves Boston and the surrounding communities, but the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) in central Mass, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) in Western Mass, and 13 other regional transit authorities. Across the state, these regional transit authorities serve hundreds of millions of riders each year. Making these trusted modes of transportation free on election day would prove a powerful tool in boosting voter turnout.
A proven policy nationally
The policy of making public transit free on election day has a proven successful across the country. Dozens of communities, including San Diego, CA, Austin, TX, and Kansas City, MO provide free public transit for state-wide elections. Yet perhaps the policy has proven most successful in Los Angeles County, CA. In 2018, LA County - which is home to more than 10 million residents and 5 million registered voters - temporarily made public transit free for the midterm elections. On Election Day, both bus and rail ridership increased by more than 5%, and financial costs proved minimal. With this clear success, LA County made public transit free for all state primaries and elections.