Starting Black Friday, a new kind of sale will be sweeping the Vineyard. 

From Nov. 24 to March 31, rides on the Vineyard Transit Authority will be free. Insteading of paying $1.25 per town for a ride, passengers can hop on the Island’s bus system without paying any fares as part of the “try transit” program sponsored by the state legislature. 

The program started last year but only ran for about a month. This year it has been expanded to last about 18 weeks, and the VTA hopes it will help boost ridership and reintroduce people to the bus system. 

“Our hope is to bring back more ridership through the holidays so people can have a little more money in the economy to help local businesses,” said Angie Gompert, the VTA administrator. 

The VTA ridership still hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic, but is slowly climbing back. Last fiscal year, just shy of 900,000 people rode the Island bus system. It was a 16 per cent increase above the prior year, but still shy of pre-pandemic numbers that were as high as 1.3 million riders.

With the new expanded free fares, which extends to all fixed routes and other services, Ms. Gompert urged people to give the bus system a try.

“It’s an attempt to raise awareness overall for the services we provide,” she said. “It’s a nice break to give folks that opportunity to do it for free.” 

The state funds come through a competitive grant process, and the VTA will be back paid for the loss of revenue during the free fare program. Up to $288,836 would be covered, according to Ms. Gompert. 

Last December, about 27,400 people rode the bus during the program, a 9.4 per cent increase from the year prior.