T eliminating plastic-paper/cash price differential

Bus ridership forecast to hit 50% of pre-COVID levels in Sept.

THE MBTA SAID on Wednesday that starting September 1 it plans to eliminate the significant price differential between those who pay their fares with rechargeable plastic CharlieCards and those who pay with cash or paper CharlieTickets.

The premium for using cash or paper is high. Currently, someone boarding a bus and paying with a paper CharlieTicket or cash pays $2 — 30 cents more than someone using a plastic CharlieCard. Subway riders who use paper CharlieTickets pay 50 cents more than the standard $2.40 fare with the plastic CharlieCard. The fare differential runs as high as $1.75 for outer express buses.

The fare reduction was approved back in May but is only now taking effect. The change is a recognition of the fact that the plastic cards were not readily available across the system and the impact fell hardest on poorer people who tend to use cash. The price reduction is the beginning of a transition to a new fare system that will eliminate cash payments on board buses.

The fare shift is coinciding with a change in bus service. With bus ridership forecast to grow from 41 percent to 50 percent of pre-COVID levels by September, the MBTA on Wednesday announced it is preparing to adjust service levels to avoid crowding thresholds.

The T said service will resume on 23 routes that had been shut down, including the CT2, 67, and 68. Service will be expanded on routes that are already busy or gaining ridership, including the 22, 66, 112, 114, 116, 117, and 504.

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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.

“In order to resume operating these routes and increasing frequency where high ridership currently exists, other bus routes with less-crowded conditions will experience reduced frequency during certain times of the weekday, on weekends, or both,” the T said. “A number of routes have also been combined, extended, and/or restructured to reduce redundancy.”

The T also said crowding thresholds are being prioritized over service frequency when deciding where to add service. “This means that resources have been diverted from less-crowded routes to accommodate routes where heavy crowding is observed, even if it means decreasing service below the frequencies in the MBTA’s service delivery policy,” the T said.