The numbers indicate the fare-free program has drawn more riders to the buses. Unlike rail ridership, which dropped by more than 90% in the depth of the pandemic, bus ridership only dropped by about 50%, said Josh Rickman, assistant general manager of HNS Management, Inc., the private contractor that operates the bus service in Hartford, New Haven and Stamford (hence HNS) for CT Transit, which is owned by the state Department of Transportation.