Members of Congress ask Hochul to fund more fare-free buses amid state budget negotiations

Lawmakers are pushing Governor Hochul to allocate additional funding for fare-free buses across the city.
Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA

In a letter to NYS Governor Kathy Hochul, ten members of Congress collectively requested $45 million in funding for the expansion of the city’s fare-free bus pilot program. 

The request, dated April 1, was led by Queens Rep. Grace Meng and Rep. Dan Goldman, whose district is in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was delivered to the governor amid the current budget negotiations in Albany that will determine the funding allocations for the 2025 fiscal year. 

Last year, the MTA rolled out the Fare-Free Bus Pilot program which designated one bus route in each borough as fare-free for up to a year. In Queens, the Q4 bus which runs from Jamaica to Cambria Heights has been fare-free for riders since Sept. 2023. 

Still underway, the pilot seeks to give the MTA insights into how free service affects ridership rates, fare evasion and equity among public transit users. The initiative is also expected to speed up service by removing the time riders spend paying the fare and allowing additional entrance from the back door. 

In the letter, they requested that $45 million be allocated in the state’s budget for fiscal year 2025 to expand the pilot with more routes across the city. They also requested an additional $45 million to increase the frequency and reliability of MTA buses across the city, which they cited as the slowest in the nation.

“Millions of New Yorkers and visitors rely on the MTA to access economic and educational opportunity. An expansion of the Fare-Free Bus Pilot with additional routes will give the MTA a more wholistic understanding of fare-free transit’s benefits in New York,” the lawmakers said in the letter. 

All Queens representatives in Congress signed the letter, including Nydia Valazquez and Gregory Meeks. In the rest of the city, the letter was signed by Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Jerrold Nadler,  Yvette Clark, Adriano Espaillat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres.