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Mass. is making non-MBTA public buses free through the holidays

A Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority bus pulls out of the bus stop at the Vineyard Haven ferry dock. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority bus pulls out of the bus stop at the Vineyard Haven ferry dock. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! The pies are in the oven and the turkey is (hopefully) thawing in the fridge by now. And you probably want to head out soon if you plan on braving the highways today.

Some of us are already looking ahead to the rest of the season, with tonight’s lighting of the Faneuil Hall Christmas treeyesterday’s arrival of the tree for Boston Common, and the return of holiday markets like SoWa’s winter festival this Friday.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, the news:

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will watch, from afar, as her fare-free transit vision comes to fruition for a month across Massachusetts. Beginning this Friday through the end of the year, the state’s 15 regional transit authorities — which run public bus and paratransit services from the Berkshires to the Cape and Islands — are eliminating all fares as part of a 37-day “Try Transit Holiday.”

  • The limited-time offer — which does not include the MBTA — is thanks to a $2.5 million grant that state lawmakers included in this year’s budget for discounted or fare-free RTA pilot programs. Officials say they’re hoping it gives existing riders some relief from high inflation this holiday season and maybe even entices new riders to take a bus ride to their local store or restaurant.
  • It won’t be much of a change in places like Worcester or the Merrimack Valley, where local RTAs have already used federal COVID relief funds to get rid of fares on all buses for even longer.
  • What’s next: While fares are set to return for most RTAs come New Year, that may not be the case forever. Governor-elect Maura Healey has pledged to outline “a pathway to fare free buses” throughout Massachusetts. And according to a spokeswoman, Healey will be “reviewing the results of the Try Transit Holiday initiative, as well as other fare-free programs across the state.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley are applauding the decision by President Joe Biden’s administration to extend the federal pause on student loan payments through next summer, while courts continue to block Biden’s loan relief plan.

  • Biden has asked the Supreme Court to decide on the legal battle over his plan to straight-up cancel some loans, and he says it “isn’t fair” to resume payments while the case is still up in the air.
  • Officials say payments will either resume 60 days after the debt cancellation program is implemented, 60 days after the lawsuits are resolved or 60 days after June 30, if they lose the case.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, state lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk this week that would prevent state agencies or boards from revoking an individual’s professional license over unpaid student debt. Massachusetts is one of only 14 states that allow such licenses to be refused or revoked over a student loan default.

  • Jobs that require professional licenses include barbers, nurses, mechanics, teachers and social workers. Advocates say the bill would protect them from losing their jobs if they fall behind on their debt and ensure they can keep working to pay it off.
  • Baker is on a family trip to Ireland for Thanksgiving, so we’ll have to wait until he gets back for his decision on the legislation.

PSA: With 1.2 million people expected to travel through Logan airport for the holiday, officials are reminding travelers that only solid food is acceptable to bring in your carry-on luggage. (And yes, cranberry sauce — both homemade and canned — counts as a liquid.)

  • “You can bring cake. You can even bring a frozen turkey, but I wouldn’t suggest you carry on something that big or heavy,” MassPort’s Ed Freni told WBUR’s Fausto Menard.
  • If you do bring a frozen turkey through carry on, please send us the photos — and remember to lift with your legs.

MBTA buses, trains and the commuter rail are on a weekend schedule tomorrow for Thanksgiving, and there’ll be no ferry service. In fact, almost everything in the state is closed tomorrow — even most supermarkets. So, make sure to hit the store today if you forgot something like, say, thyme for your Thanksgiving dinner.

P.S.— This newsletter will also be closed! We’re taking tomorrow off for the holiday, but we’ll be back with a special edition on Black Friday with weekend listening tips and — of course — advice for what to do with all those leftovers.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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