The Q4 bus will be free starting this Sunday

The Q4 bus was selected in Queens to be fare-free.
File photo courtesy of Sandra Ung’s office

The Q4 bus which runs from Jamaica toward Cambria Heights will be fare-free starting this Sunday, Sept. 24 — and will last for at least six months and possibly up to a year. 

The first-of-its-kind initiative is part of the MTA’s pilot program to determine how free service affects ridership, access, equality and fare evasion. Supporters of the initiative hope that it will lead to increased ridership and ease the financial burden for some New Yorkers. The selected routes, one in each borough, already serve 43,900 weekday riders. 

The Q4 route begins on Archer Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in Jamaica, heads toward Cambria Heights and ends on 235th Street and Linden Boulevard. It provides a connection to Jamaica Center, South Jamaica, St. Albans and Cambria Heights, which has major employers and institutions along the way. 

Without having to collect fares, free buses are expected to speed up service by eliminating the time riders wait for others to board and will allow entry from the back door as well. Many say that increasing reliance on public transportation is also necessary to take action against climate change. 

​​”The MTA is the lifeblood of New York City, and I’m proud of the tremendous progress we’ve made in returning ridership to pre-pandemic levels,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said when the initiative was announced in July. “By establishing these fare free bus pilot routes, we are expanding access to public transportation across the city and improving transit equity to better serve all New Yorkers.”

When Boston adopted a fare-free bus program last year, dwell times spent at stops were reduced by 20%. But two-thirds of riders ultimately did not save money on transit because they purchased monthly passes or used connections.  

Free service is also expected to improve safety. J.P Patafio, the Vice President of a bus sector of TWU Local 100, the city’s transportation union which represents thousands of bus operators in the city, says that the fare box is responsible for half of assaults. 

When Kansas City made public transportation free citywide in 2019, incidents where supervisors were called decreased by 39% and 80% of riders felt safer. The majority of riders surveyed also said that they rode the bus more. 

“Free bus service would make my bus operators’ job much safer,” said Patafio in a video shared by Zohran Mamdani on Twitter. 

Bus stops on participating routes will have designated signs, and buses will also have their own designation sign indicating that the bus is fare-free. Fare boxes will be covered and OMNY readers will not be activated. 

The Fix The MTA initiative, spearheaded by State Assemby Member Zohran Mambdani and Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, has so far also delivered a lower fare hike than planned at $2.90 and additional funding for increased subway service. 

The routes in the other boroughs include Brooklyn’s B60, the Bx18 in the Bronx, the M1116 in Manhattan and the S46/96 in Staten Island.