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You can ride Lawrence buses for free starting in 2023

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Also, Lawrence Transit celebrates grant that will pay for 4 new electric buses

It’s been a big week for Lawrence Transit. On Thursday, the city announced that passengers will ride fare-free in 2023; in addition, the city has received a grant to help pay for four new electric buses.

The fare free pilot program is supported by federal transit funding, according to the city. It helps move the city closer to goals in several ways: putting money back in riders’ pockets, advancing equity, faster service without drivers having to pause as riders come on board, less staff time spent on processing fares, and, hopefully, an increase in ridership.

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“Ridership has not fully recovered from pandemic impacts that began in March 2020. Fare free programs in other communities have resulted in ridership increases of 20% to 60%,” and if the results are similar here, it would help the city get closer to its goals of shifting travelers toward more sustainable modes of transportation, according to the city’s news release.

The pilot program will apply to fixed route, T Lift, and Night Line rides, as well as planned Sunday microtransit options, which will essentially function like Uber or Lyft starting in early 2023.

The program will be reevaluated in fall 2023 to determine if it’s feasible to extend the pilot, according to the release. Passengers with existing bus passes should plan to use their fare by Dec. 31, 2022.

As for the electric buses: “This grant provides $3,279,655 to buy two long-range battery electric buses and two low-floor battery electric cutaway buses to replace diesel buses that have exceeded their useful life. Local match for this grant is $1,164,704, which is already budgeted as part of the City’s fleet replacement and sustainability goals,” according to the city.

“The four new buses will reduce direct carbon emissions by 146 tons annually and move Lawrence Transit closer to its goal of running an entirely zero-emission fleet by 2035.”

The city will have 11 electric buses on its fleet by 2024.

“FTA continues to recognize the commitment and compelling story of the City’s sustainability goals,” Adam Weigel, transit and parking manager, said in the city’s release. “I’m proud of our staff and community for leaning in to this effort so fully, as it will pay off in a big way for this community in noise and pollution reduction. Electric buses are an important piece of building an equitable and modern transit system to be a leader in the Midwest.”

If you haven’t taken the bus for a while, be aware that Lawrence Transit has put several new and changed routes in place. You can use this Google Trip Planner tool to help determine how best to get around.

Check out all the routes at this link. See the full transit guide with maps and schedules in PDF form at this link.

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