Fare verification spurs electronic ticket sales

KEOLIS COMMUTER SERVICES  said on Monday that its emerging fare verification initiative is spurring the sale of an average of 1,500 to 2,000 more electronic tickets a day for commuter rail trips.

The higher sales figures don’t necessarily mean all those purchases are by people who previously tried to avoid paying their fares, but Keolis officials said they point in that direction. Passengers who pay their fares using the so-called M-Ticket are supposed to activate the ticket on their phone or tablet before boarding the train, but many passengers wait to activate their tickets until a conductor is coming down the aisle looking for them. On crowded trains, sometimes the conductor never makes it to them.

Commuter rail customers have long complained that many of their fellow passengers ride without paying. There have been speculative estimates that as much as $30 million in fare revenue is lost during the course of a year.

Keolis, the private contractor running commuter rail service for the MBTA, has been trying to address the problem by hiring people to check tickets before passengers board trains. The process has slowly ramped up since Sept. 5 at North, South, and Back Bay Stations and a handful of other venues. Overall, 117,000 passengers have been checked boarding 474 off-peak and 224 peak trains.

According to Keolis, system-wide sales of M-Tickets increased fairly significantly over 16 days in September compared to the average for the same days of the week over an eight-month period from October 2016 through June 2017. The increases ranged from a low of 12.1 percent on Wednesday Sept. 20 to a high of 36.2 percent on Monday Sept. 25.

“We’re pleased with the results that we’re seeing,” said David Mitrou, a Keolis vice president, in a presentation to the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board.

Officials said there have been social media complaints about delays in boarding trains because of the new fare-checking procedure, but Keolis said the only delays have come as passengers bunch up for the fare checks. “We haven’t seen delays in terms of train departures,” said Mitrou.

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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.

Keolis officials say they plan to keep rolling out their fare verification initiative to all trains at the three main stations as well as other stations.

“It’s terrific the Keolis team is getting serious about fare collection,” said Brian Shortsleeve, a member of the control board.

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