Subway, commuter-rail fares to go up, but bus rides will cost the same

Boston Magazine has the details of the new fares to go into effect on July 1. Senior and student passes are also not going up.

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu (at large), who fought the increases, said she's glad to see at least some of the fares not go up. She said she and Councilor Kim Janey (Roxbury) will now fight to eliminate fares on the 28 bus route along Blue Hill Avenue between Mattapan and Dudley squares, in part because so many of its riders have no other way to get around, in part because its service sucks. In their request for a hearing on the idea, they write:

The MBTA 28 Bus route serves more than 12,000 riders on the average weekday, the most of any MBTA bus route. According to a passenger survey, 54% have 0 usable vehicles, 45% do not have a valid driver’s license, 65% of riders are low income, and 92% are people of color. ...

The unreliability of MBTA buses has caused ridership numbers to decrease 3-16% on the ten busiest routes, yet these buses play a critical role in transporting low-income Bostonians to and from work. ...

Eliminating the fare on MBTA buses in areas where transit is a barrier to economic opportunity would increase ridership, decrease Boston’s carbon footprint, and provide critical transportation for Boston residents looking to contribute to the economic growth of the city.



Free tagging: 




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Not fair that my pass goes up and others don’t.


I hear the state will triple

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I hear the state will triple the gas tax to make up for decades when it wasn't raised. Just kidding! Drivers will continue to take millions from non drivers while running them over in crosswalks.



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I've been riding the Framingham/Worcester line for 20 years, and there's been a steady increase in late trains and a steady decrease in number of cars. So we pay more to be crammed in like sardines and arrive late to work.


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If those routes are running on the weekends as that is when the T likes to shut down random routes to do repairs. And all seasons are fair game for that.

Well, service in most of East

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Well, service in most of East Boston (read: not Meridian or Bennington Streets). Most of the commuters are low-income people of color and don't have cars. Why do I still have to pay a fare on the 120 when the MBTA rated its reliability at under 50%?


Fares go up

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Fare Evasion triples and no one pays to ride the MBTA.

The new fares seem fair(ish)

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It is good that the discounted fares are staying the same, along with the bus fares (for you newbies, at one time the bus and subway cost the same, though there were no free transfers.)

The one thing that I see as troublesome is the levels the commuter rail fares are going up further up. As the tweet in the Boston Magazine article notes, someone living in Fitchburg can lease a Mercedes for the cost of the Zone 8 pass. That's kind of messed up.


Mercedes lease vs. Zone 8 Pass

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is a false equivalence. That lease just gives you a car you can park in/on your garage/driveway/street. There's also the cost of insuring it, fueling it, maintenance, etc. And on a lease which allows 15,000 miles/year, the 90-mile round-trip between Boston and Fitchburg, even if the car is only used to commute on weekdays, would put the car at the annual mileage limit about two-thirds of the way through the year.

And that completely ignores the cost of daily parking in Boston which is generally higher than the cost of a round-trip Zone 8 fare in most areas to which someone would commute.

The MBTA is a Virgo

And this is some serious Virgo self-defeatist behavior. I expect T ridership to continue to plummet.

To paraphrase the President of Mexico: I'M NOT PAYING FOR YOUR EFFING FARES. Fare increases have not resulted in better service whatsoever. Just PR campaigns for "Boston Rapid Transit" and "Transit Ambassadors." And more passengers smoking inside the stations.

Nobody should have to walk through clouds of K2 smoke and puddles of pee to make their delayed Red Line train.

Wasn't it just recently baker admin refused more $ for t?

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Wasn't it just recently baker admin refused more $ for t? Saying they couldn't handle managing any more? Why is he so gleeful to keep raising fares? Is he trying to kill public transit in metro Boston? Does he get money from auto industry?

This is barely going to put a dent in Bakers plan for (another) new fare collection system. At $700+ million, is it really going to capture that much more fares? How many years will that take? Cancel the new fare collection system, and cancel the gate increases.

Baker offered the T more

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Baker offered the T more money for capital projects and then used the T's turning it down to be like WELP FUCK EM WE TRIED TO HELP. Ignoring that the way capital improvement funding works is that monies have to be used within the same fiscal year and that the T has a careful schedule of projects in terms of when they go into design, community input, bidding, awarding, construction, etc, etc, and generally don't have a shelf of signed and completed projects ready to whip out if they're miraculously given an extra 10mil or whatever arbitrary amount. It's sort of like your grandparents calling you up and offering you a free 10k but only to use on home improvement projects and only if you get started in the next month, when you've been carefully budgeting to redo your bathroom in three years when your kids are away at camp and you'll have time to shop around for a contractor.

So yeah, they turned down the offer because it wasn't going to help with operating costs and they probably would have ended up squandering it if they had tried to last minute make another capital project work.

The new fare system is less about additional fare retrieval and more about the fact that we either replace the fare system or stop charging fare altogether, because the current system isn't going to hold up another 5 years.

As someone who currently pays

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As someone who currently pays $55 a month for a bus commute and doesn't own a car, I feel like I'm getting away with murder. Having to pay for commuter rail AND a car AND parking must be hell.

no plan for better fare collection?

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So by cutting back on station personal and not allowing the red shirted T ambassadors or station personal to stop or confront fare jumpers. How much money is the T losing every day? Never mind the commuter rail ticket problems. Also this fare jumper problem pisses off law abiding T riders. My coworkers and I had this discussion last week as well as the shared experience of by bicycles taking up three seats during rush hour. The T can’t even stop that never mind fare evasion
The new unified commuter rail pass \ scan solution is still over a year away. Maybe it will get here the same time the new orange line cars are in service…

How Quaint

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Fares are such a dinosaur. The proper way to fund mass transit is to have no fares at all but tax the fuck out of drivers using every available method, from gas taxes to area based congestion charges. That plus the federal subsidies for transit go a long way towards fully funding the services. Any further shortfalls after that can be made up for by a portion of the property taxes from areas serviced by the transit.


If fares are dinosaurs, we live in the age of dinosaurs

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But humor me. Name me a major city where mass transit exists without fares. Other than Tallinn, which does charge fares for non-Tallinn residents since the municipality runs the buses and trams. I've been to Tallinn. It's a nice city, but hardly world class like New York, London, or Paris.

Fareless Inner City Systems

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Multiple US cities have bus systems within their broader regional plan that are fareless. They often seem geared to tourism, but locals still use them to get places. Baltiimore's Charm City Circulators are an example.

Downtown fare free zones are quaint

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And perhaps if we did fares by paying inbound and again outbound, it would work. Heck, I'll never understand why all these private shuttles in the area (I'm looking at you MASCO) don't allow the public to ride for free. At the end of the day, fare free inner city setups are to encourage people to use their central business districts. Boston's CBD is compact and well used.

Do you one better...

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The entire country of Luxembourg is going to be fare-free within the next few months.

The country has a population of 600,000 with 200,000 more from nearby countries all commuting into the country for work each day. Sounds vaguely familiar in numbers...

That's a different creature altogether

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Currently, fares only cover 3% of the cost of Luxembourg's transit costs. That's low compared to most major cities (or regions in the case of Luxembourg.) Also, the decision came from above. If the General Court and Governor can figure out a way to provide transit without fares in Massachusetts while at the same time ensuring service is at least maintained while maintenance is not neglected, I'd be on board. As it is, I have yet to see any revenue proposals other than this fare increase.

Paris pondered it and said no. Again, we are talking cities.


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Luxembourg is basically just Luxembourg City (and surrounding areas).

That's my point

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The reason Tallinn and other cities have been able to do what they do is that there is no divorce between the authority who runs transit and the government. Same thing with Luxembourg. It's a small (yet congested) country.

It has been killing me that a member of the Boston City Council, which has no oversight over the T other than the small assessment every community in the service area is charged, is trying to tell the MBTA, a state agency funded independently mostly via a statewide sales tax and fares, how to raise money to run the system. It's like our elected leaders know nothing about government.


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After only raising the subway and commuter rail fares, the control board members then went to the State House and (4 out of 5 of them) told legislative members that they need to come up with some transportation money and passed along a number of the same suggestions made in the control board meeting.

You are missing a lot about the T

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Like how it needs better revenue sources.

I think it's good that the control board is looking at making the T more solvent. It's a pity that the No Fares Party hasn't thought to do that. I guess some people are realistic, while others want the T to be free.

If we're lucky, they'll find a way to ensure that fare hikes are not a regular thing. Conversely, some forget what the T was like when one of the main concerns was keeping fares the lowest in the nation. And I remember that each time I get on a 40 year old Orange Line car.


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tax the fuck out of drivers using every available method

Doesn't this assume, though, that drivers are 1)rich (or at least comfortably able to absorb the additional cost) and 2)blessed with loads of alternatives? Because I really don't think this is true in most cases. A lot of people drive because it's the only way to have a job, because public transit simply won't get them where they have to go. So, while I'm all in favor of having drivers pay their fair share of the total cost of transportation, I think you also have to consider economic justice, which does not include taxing the fuck out of some poor person who's scraping to keep a car running just to survive.

For people with no vehicle or driver's license

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How would eliminating fares on a bus route "decrease Boston’s carbon footprint?" If $1.70 is too much to pay for bus fare, can you afford to pay for Lyft or Uber?

No doubt app ride services are one of the biggest contributors to the drop in T ridership. A lot of people find door-to-door for $10 or so to be a better value than $1.70/$2.25 with a sometimes-lengthy walk on either end.

The buses are unreliable because the city does a horrible job of managing traffic. In the morning, it's usually faster to walk than take the Silver Lie from E. Berkeley to Downtown Crossing. God forbid that the City should actually follow the lead of other jurisdictions and implement something so radical as traffic signal priority for buses!

Less time the bus is sitting

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Less time the bus is sitting idling in the stop while Johnny McCan'tPlanAhead feeds dimes into the farebox to recharge his CharlieCard


Driving Fares.

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Since the Governor wants to talk only about fares right now, we need to start referring to the gas tax, VMT, tolls, congestion pricing and other charges associated with automobile operation properly - as "driving fares".

I am still waiting for a satisfactory answer to this question: if it is important for T fares to increase to keep pace with inflation (as was stated at the FMCB meeting yesterday), why is it apparently not important to increase driving fares to keep up with inflation?

The cost of driving does go up with inflation...

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Parking in the City of Boston is increasing in cost, cars are increasing in cost, insurance is increasing in cost, maintenance is increasing in cost. Gasoline goes up and down because its price is tied to a global commodity with price swings.

Part of the reason why T fares need to increase with inflation is because their costs go up with inflation, too. Employees expect cost-of-living increases, new vehicles go up in price, parts and supplies go up in price, electricity gets more expensive, etc.

Increasing the gas tax or implementing VMT/tolls tends to be a regressive tax since many of the people with long commutes by car do so because they find housing closer to work to be unaffordable or because they have commutes that just don't work with public transit. About 20 years ago, I had a job out near Route 495 but was living in the South End. The office was a 45-minute walk from the nearest commuter rail station, I needed to allow ~30 minutes to reach North Station on time, and the train ride was right at an hour. Oh, and the first outbound train which went out that far arrived at 10:10 AM.

That said, it's likely the state will have to fund roads via something like VMT once EVs make up a substantial share of the vehicles on the road. Right now, wealthy folks who can afford a Tesla pay near zero for highway maintenance.

But the public revenues to fund driving infrastructure is not

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I cannot quite tell what the point of your comment was intended to be.

The reason you gave for T fares having to increase applies to driving fares, too. MassDOT Highway Division/local DPW workers also expect (and receive) cost-of-living increases, the cost of their road maintenance equipment is increasing in cost, the price of asphalt and metal for signs is increasing in cost, etc. Yet, the costs associated with driving that fund all of these things has *not* gone up in a while, and has not gone up 6% in a lot longer than that.

Insofar as regressiveness goes, I understand that a non-trivial number of folks have been forced further from the job clusters because of housing costs near those clusters. That said, it will be a difficult argument indeed to convince people that raising driving fares is more regressive than raising transit fares, unless you consider only transit fares associated with the highest income or highest cost commuter rail zones.

MassDOT's highway operations and debt service

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Are more than fully-funded from road-related revenue. Tolls, motor vehicles fuel tax, RMV fees, sales tax on motor vehicles, and smaller sources like rental charges combined outpace MassDOT's budget for highway operations and debt service.

So road-related revenue is a profit center for MA General Fund?

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If what you allege is true, it would suggest that "road-related revenue" is a profit center for the Commonwealth's General Fund since it's allegedly more than enough for MassDOT highway ops and debt service. I have never heard anyone assert or even suggest this before.

Sales taxes on motor vehicles are not properly considered "road-related" revenue. Nor are rental charges, which go to things like funding the convention center. Accordingly, it's pretty difficult to accept the overarching assertion.

Not going to sell many cars...

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without roads and highways on which to drive them...

And yes, road-related revenue does end up being a profit center for the General Fund and Commonwealth Transportation Fund; some of that money goes into subsidizing the MBTA and regional transit authorities in the state.

Funny you should ask

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Here's the details of the revenue part of the state budget.

Honestly, I did not know that motor vehicle sales tax goes into the highway funds. As an aside, I also did not know that a portion of the sales taxes goes to the school building authority. You learn something new every day.


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So long as highway maintenance levels are acceptable, the amount paid by the users is acceptable. Of course, talk to someone who drives the Pike in from Newton or takes one of the other tolled roads of the area about how highway projects are paid and you might get an earful about how it used to cost a buck to get into down until the Big Dig got started.

Perhaps not so simple

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I imagine that some of our data folks on here will post some info to show that to the extent highway maintenance levels are acceptable in view of the amount paid by users, it is because those user costs are being very heavily defrayed by subsidies from other public (non-transpo generated) sources, and that those subsidies are greater than those provided to transit users).

Also, I've lived along the Pike for my entire adult life. I don't mind paying enhanced user fees (driving fares) in the form of tolls. I do mind that no one else in the Commonwealth except for users of the Tobin and harbor tunnels is asked to do so.

I'll give you this much

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I've never understood why people who take the Pike downtown or take the Tobin are paying for a new I-93.

Still, until the roads get bad enough, drivers will be happy with that they get. Some want the T to lose a third of their revenue, yet gripe about the poor quality of the infrastructure and ensuing service. Myself, I understand that revenue needs to go up.

You know why?

The pike was grandfathered.

I-93 is restricted from tolls due to federal rules

The Tobin is a state highway.

I commute on I-93 maybe once a week or two weeks, and I don't disagree with tolling the road.


Things like climate damage, air pollution and health issues, cost of emergency services and police coverage, etc.

These are not maintenance issues, but they are costs to society that result from driving.

Those are indirect costs

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MassDOT and MassHealth are two distinct agencies.

We could abolish the T and make people walk. That would make people healthier. Using the logic you used, the T therefore is a burden on society since it makes us less healthy.