Free bus rides are available in New Bedford, Fall River and across Southeastern Massachusetts in the first half of 2024.

Eric Rousseau, the person in charge of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, said he's been looking for ways to increase ridership and improve service since he first took the job some 12 years ago.

Consumers are enjoying his latest idea: free bus rides through the month of June.

Rousseau joined Townsquare Sunday to discuss his tenure as SRTA Administrator and what riders may see in the future.

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SRTA provides public transportation to New Bedford, Fall River and eight surrounding towns in Bristol and Plymouth County. Rousseau takes his marching orders from an advisory board, made up of one member from each of the communities served by SRTA.

Rousseau said ridership has held up well, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During the pandemic, things obviously slowed down quite a bit, but we recovered quite well," he said. "In the first year, we were among the top 50 transit authorities in the country in terms of ridership recovery."

Rousseau added that SRTA is no longer at that standard, but it's still providing the third-most trips in the Commonwealth for regional transit authorities.

As for the free bus trips, Rousseau said the "Try Transit" program is all about getting more cars off the road, and more people using public transportation.

"Doing the program allows people to see if it fits in their schedule, gets them to work, to medical services and see loved ones," he said. "It's a great opportunity for people to try public transportation."

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What's SRTA's busiest route?

Rousseau said surprisingly, it's the New Bedford connecting route to Fall River.

Starting on January 28, SRTA will begin a pilot Sunday service program, similar to what the Saturday service is now.

"We have a seven-day-a-week economy in Massachusetts and especially on the SouthCoast," Rousseau said. "We need seven-day-a-week service for our buses, it's something that's long overdue."

The Sunday buses will run through June 30, but could run longer if adequate funding is available.

To learn more about the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, check out the SRTA bus website.

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly community affairs program heard Sundays on WBSM.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please email the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.

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