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The Future Of Fare-Free Transit

Boston’s Chief of Streets walks us through the ins and outs of Boston’s experiments with zero-fare public transportation.

January 13, 2023

This year has been a challenging one for Boston’s transportation system, which has seen the long-awaited and much-delayed Green Line expansion, a month-long Orange Line closure, and a cutting federal safety report that cataloged the MBTA’s shortcomings.

But the city is also at the helm of the nation’s growing push for fare-free public transit. In March, newly-elected Mayor Michelle Wu – long a proponent of fare-free transit – announced that three of the city’s most-used bus lines would go fare-free as part of a two-year pilot program.

For our keynote session, Boston’s Chief of Streets, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, joins Next City to discuss whether this experiment is proving its worth as a strategy to meet the city’s climate, mobility and racial justice goals. And as other municipalities, including Washington, D.C., take the leap to provide free public transportation, he offers some advice for other city leaders considering joining the zero-fare movement.

This session is part of Next City’s Solutions of the Year, a multi-day virtual convening of seven sessions that will frame the conversation for 2023.


Lucas Grindley, Executive Director Next City

Lucas is the former President of Pride Media and led LGBTQ brands The Advocate, Out magazine,, Out Traveler, Chill magazine, and Plus magazine. Grindley was also editor in chief of The Advocate, the longest running LGBTQ magazine in the country. In both 2016 and 2018, NLGJA honored Grindley as “LGBT Journalist of the Year” with its Sarah Pettit Memorial Award. From 2008 through 2011, he was managing editor for online at National Journal magazine, covering politics and policymaking in Washington, D.C. He now lives in Philadelphia with his husband and twin daughters. Follow him on Twitter @lucasgrindley.


Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston Chief of Streets, Transportation, and Sanitation

Jascha Franklin-Hodge serves as the Chief of Streets where he oversees the City's Public Works and Transportation Departments. He supports the delivery of high-quality essential city services and works to implement Mayor Michelle Wu’s transportation priorities, including reliable, affordable transit service, safer street design in every neighborhood, and a connected network of low-stress bicycle routes.

He most recently served as the Executive Director of the Open Mobility Foundation, a foundation that helps cities collaborate with the private sector to develop open source tools and data standards that work towards a safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation system.

Chief Franklin-Hodge previously served as the City of Boston’s Chief Information Officer from 2014 to 2018, and led the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, focused on mobility, technology, and public policy, and a consultant to the private sector on new mobility and smart cities. Previously, Franklin-Hodge co-founded Blue State Digital, which powered the digital presence of President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Franklin-Hodge studied computer science at MIT. He lives with his husband and two young kids in Jamaica Plain, and travels mostly by bike and public transit.

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