MBTA proposes narrowly targeted fare changes
Move comes amid calls for more sweeping action
THE MBTA and its new oversight board have shied away from broad discussions about eliminating fares or discounting fares for low-income riders, but on Thursday they set in motion an effort to make a number of narrowly targeted fare changes.
Several of the proposed changes would benefit riders eligible for the MBTA’s reduced fare program, while others create new passes, tweak existing ones, or make permanent a pass that was launched on a temporary basis in response to the change in commuting patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of the proposed changes were presented to a subcommittee of the MBTA oversight board on Thursday morning and, if eventually approved, will take effect on July 1. A livestream of the virtual meeting wasn’t working, so it’s unclear whether the subcommittee made changes to the T’s proposal.
The MBTA’s reduced fare program is open to people with disabilities, Medicare cardholders, people 65 and older, some middle and high school students, and low-income people between the ages of 18 and 25. The reduced fares for those who qualify are $1.10 for subway rides, 85 cents for bus rides, and $30 for a monthly link pass, which entitles the holder to unlimited bus and subway travel. Lower one-way fares at about half price are also available on commuter rail and ferries.
The MBTA fare change proposal would also make permanent a five-day flex pass for commuter rail, which was launched as part of a pilot in June 2020 and allows unlimited commuter rail travel on any five days within a 30-day period.
The fare change proposal would also lower the cost of a one-day link pass from $12.75 to $11 and expand the availability of so-called second transfers, allowing passengers to transfer from one express bus to another or jump from a bus to a bus to a subway, or a subway to a bus to a bus.The previous MBTA oversight board — the Fiscal and Management Control Board — had hoped its successor would launch a pilot program by now to test across-the-board fare discounts for low-income riders. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has also pressured the T to move ahead with a pilot paid for by the city that would eliminate fares on three bus routes in Boston.
The T hasn’t taken action on either initiative, although negotiations on the elimination of fares on the three Boston bus routes remain ongoing.