The Codcast: Cashless T won’t leave people behind

There’s been a lot of talk about the MBTA’s plan to install a new fare collection system, most of it focused on the problems associated with going cashless.  The concerns were exemplified by a headline in the Boston Globe last week that said: “The MBTA wants to go cashless. What about people who might be left behind?”

A pretty strong response emerged to that question over the weekend. Jim Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation and board member of TransitMatters, said not to worry. In a column (for those who like to read) and a Codcast (for those who like to get a slightly different take by listening), Aloisi explained how the benefits of not using cash on board buses and trolleys far outweigh the minor inconvenience of having to buy a fare before boarding.

Globe columnist Dante Ramos said the MBTA’s problem is it’s just too nice. He said policymakers are way too worried about offending a small group of people when their chief concern should be improving service for all of the T’s riders. “The single most progressive thing the MBTA can do is make public transit the easiest, fastest way for people to get somewhere,” Ramos said. “That means finding ways to shave off a minute of travel time here and 30 seconds of idle time there – and asking customers to help.”

Both Aloisi and Ramos point out the new system is only going cashless on-board buses and Green Line trolleys. Riders will still be able to pay their fares using cash; they will just have to pay by loading up a CharlieCard at T vending machines before they board. The system will allow users to board all vehicles by tapping a CharlieCard, a smartphone, or contactless credit card. CharlieCards will cost $5 each.

The new fare collection system should speed up boardings by allowing riders to get on at all doors of buses and trolleys. Also, by dispensing with cash payments on board, those getting on a bus or trolley won’t have to wait as someone tries to make their wrinkled dollar bill feed into the fare machine.

Aloisi spent time studying the MBTA’s contract with the vendor selected to install and operate the new fare collection system. He said the language suggests the concerns about people being left behind are largely unfounded.

“Today there are 497 CharlieCard machines (some of which only take credit/debit cards). With the new system, there will be about 840 fare vending machines plus additional retail locations, all of which will take cash. It is unlikely that anyone will be unable to access one of these points of sale in a reasonably convenient way,” Aloisi wrote in his column. “From a bus perspective, the bottom line is this: points of sale must be located in order to ensure availability within 1,000 feet of boarding or alighting points for 95 percent of all bus trips, and within 2,000 feet of boarding or alighting points for 98 percent of all bus trips.”

If combined with other measures, such as special lanes for buses, both Aloisi and Ramos say the new fare collection system has the potential to dramatically speed up travel and make bus travel more reliable and attractive.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Few senators were publicly tipping their hand over the weekend as to what should be done in the wake of the controversy surround Senate President Stan Rosenberg. One, Barbara L’Italien, who is mounting a campaign for Congress, said he should step down from his leadership post. (Boston Globe) Behind the scenes, however, a trio of Democratic senators, Linda Forry, Eileen Donoghue, and Sal DiDomenico, were scrambling to position themselves to takeover the presidency should Rosenberg fall. (Boston Herald)  A Globe editorial says Rosenberg should step from the Senate presidency while an investigation proceeds. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says so, too, and says Attorney General Maura Healey or another outside authority needs to oversee the probe, not a Senate-appointed investigator.

Bryon Hefner, the one who is causing all the controversy, allegedly sent a text message with a picture of male genitalia to someone involved in Massachusetts politics earlier this year. (MassLive)

Former House budget chief Brian Dempsey says he likes the private sector working at ML Strategies, the powerhouse lobbying firm. (Eagle-Tribune)

State officials are weighing a ban on striped bass fishing. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In Lawrence it’s news when a Starbucks announces plans to open in town. (Eagle-Tribune)

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan has backed off his threat to sue the town of Holbrook over a proposed transfer station near the town lines, saying the problem can be solved through mitigation or allowing Holbrook to bring its waste to the Braintree transfer station at a “neighborly discount.” (The Enterprise)

Lawyers for two aides to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh plan to ask for a delay today in their federal trial, currently slated to begin on January 8, in the wake of a charging change filed last week by prosecutors. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins says the obstruction of justice case against President Trump appears to be growing — even as his lawyer tried to claim credit for writing what seemed like an incriminating tweet that went out over the weekend from Trump’s Twitter account. (Boston Herald) The conservative National Review says with the guilty plea by Michael Flynn followed by the presidential tweets, Robert Mueller’s focus is now an obstruction investigation that could lead to impeachment.

Trump may have campaigned as a populist champion of the little guy but, but he has governed like a ally of the wealthy and big business. (Boston Globe)

New York’s Metropolitan Opera has suspended conductor James Levine, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, amid allegations of sexual misconduct with three men who charged Levine molested them decades ago when they were teens. (New York Times)

Billy Bush says, of course, President Trump boasted about groping and kissing women on an Access Hollywood recording. (Time)

ELECTIONS

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim faces an uphill climb to unseat Secretary of State Bill Galvin, but some think next year’s election will be as favorable as things get for candidates looking to shake the status quo. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Rhode Island-based CVS announced it will buy insurance giant Aetna Inc. for $69 billion. (Boston Globe) The deal has the potential to dramatically alter the health care industry landscape. (New York Times)

In the midst of Boston’s go-go real estate boom, commercial developers are now putting up buildings “on spec” without any space pre-leased to future tenants. (Boston Globe)

A West Harwich man found sketches in his attic, which he intends to auction, that he says were drawn by his father that showed he was the originator of the comic book character Batman but charges DC Comics and its illustrator purloined the idea. (Cape Cod Times)

At a time when thieves are stealing more and more packages left on doorsteps, Amazon and others are urging customers to shop online and have their packages delivered to boxes in places such as Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon. (Eagle-Tribune)

EDUCATION

The Globe profiles a beloved janitor who has worked at UMass Boston for 30 years but is slated to be laid-off two years before his full retirement benefits would kick in.

Racial disparities persist in student discipline in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Massachusetts Medical Society drops its opposition to medical aid in dying. (WBUR)

The state is enforcing an often-ignored law mandating alcohol and drug rehabs to provide treatment or referral for those seeking admissions under the “No Wrong Door” statute. Those seeking treatment often believe they must consume alcohol or drugs before entering a rehab in order to test positive for substances and ensure their admission. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

The state says it has no plans to build West Station in Allston until at least 2040, prompting an outcry from transit advocates. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Consumers for Sensible Energy, which has been very active in trying to block a new natural gas pipeline, won’t divulge its donors. Who’s behind it? (CommonWealth)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, looking to make its inspection program more efficient, is considering a proposal to let plant operators “self-assess” their own facilities and report their findings to the NRC. (Cape Cod Times)

Cape Wind calls it quits. (CommonWealth)

A “solar monster” in the front yard of a home in Beverly is drawing the ire of neighbors. (Salem News)

The herring population has made a comeback in South Shore rivers but now faces a new threat as a culvert dug by Brockton officials to replenish its water supply has been sucking the offspring into the reservoir and trapping them, ending in their deaths. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Three boys, aged 13, 14, and 16, were arrested in Dorchester on armed robbery charges over the weekend in a case that has officials alarmed because of the age of the alleged gun-toting perpetrators. (Boston Globe)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson will have to find another source of revenue for his plans to refurbish the old Shawmut Diner to teach food service skills to inmates after learning forfeiture funds he counted on from the $140 million TelexFree fraud case will be used only to reimburse victims. (Standard-Times)

Three former guards at Bridgewater State Hospital will go on trial starting tomorrow on involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the 2009 death at the facility of 23-year-old Joshua Messier. (Boston Globe)

Billerica jail still houses pretrial detainees despite the state’s vow to find another location. (Lowell Sun)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe’s print subscriptions fell dramatically during the most recent three-month reporting period, while online subscriptions continued to grow. (Boston Business Journal)