‘A surprisingly good idea’ from the T

New, flat weekend fare offers lots of opportunities

THE MBTA may finally be starting to get it.

After years and years of running weekend commuter rail trains that very few people ride, the T this week decided to do something about it. The Fiscal and Management Control Board voted to offer a special fare this summer that allows passengers to take as many weekend rides on the commuter rail system as they want for the flat price of $10. Up to two children 11 or under can ride for free with a paying adult. The new fare starts June 9 and runs through September 2.

An editorial that appeared in the jointly owned Eagle-Tribune, Salem News, and Gloucester Times on Friday hailed the new fare as “a surprisingly good idea” from the MBTA. “That’s roughly half the price of a regular round-trip from Boston to Gloucester for a ticket that can be used multiple times on a weekend,” the editorial said.

What’s great about the fare is that it gets people thinking about ways to travel around the region without using a car. The editorial pointed out one option on the North Shore. Instead of fighting the traffic headed to Good Harbor and Wingaersheek beaches in Gloucester, people can take the train to the city and then hop on the hourly trolley that deposits them right at the beach. The train trip and the trolley would cost $13, so a family of two adults and two children under 11 could spend the day at the beach for less than it costs ($30) to park one car there.

Every community should start coming up with fun weekend getaways accessible by train. Trains run to Providence, Worcester, Salem, Lowell, Newburyport, and Plymouth. (The Cape Flyer is not part of the promotion.) Trains also run from those places into Boston, where traffic is almost always a nightmare and parking is ridiculously expensive.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The summer fare should also be a great learning experience for the T. The agency’s mindset is focused on weekday commuting, but the new fare offers the opportunity to see if people can be drawn to the rails when they aren’t headed for work. The MBTA should post travel options like the one to Gloucester on its website. It should collaborate with municipal partners to offer a wide variety of weekend itineraries. And the agency should use this opportunity to see if schedules need to be adjusted to accommodate beach and nightlife excursions.

The new fare is a baby step toward rethinking the way public transit is marketed in Massachusetts. For far too long the T has viewed its job as getting people to and from work. Now it has a chance to think about transit more broadly, as a way for people to explore the region and enjoy life.