The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is seeking a new ticket vendor for the Lowell and North Billerica commuter rail stations after ending its relationship with Mill City Tickets, which held the MBTA contract for nearly three years.
Until the MBTA reaches an agreement with a new vendor, passengers departing from those stations must pay their fare on board the train without incurring a surcharge, transportation authority officials said. The MBTA typically charges a $3 fee to customers who buy a ticket on board from a station where a ticket vendor is open.
According to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, Mill City Tickets owes the MBTA “thousands of dollars,” money that “the T plans to recover.”
“The MBTA was left with no choice but to pull [Mill City Tickets’] ticketing-selling equipment on Oct. 5,” Pesaturo said. Despite repeated warnings, he said, Mill City “failed to follow MBTA policies with respect to managing the ticket stock. The vendor also failed to make payments to the MBTA, in accordance with the agreement to sell tickets.”
Michael A. Riordan, the Reading lawyer representing John Petros Sr. of Dracut, owner of Mill City Tickets, said his client hopes to continue working with the MBTA. The dispute concerns tickets that were damaged or voided by the ticketing equipment, Riordan said.
“Mistakes were clearly made by both sides,” said Riordan. “The issue regarding Mill City’s failure to follow MBTA policies with respect to managing ticket stock fell entirely with voided tickets, and they were returned to the MBTA.
“We look forward to continuing to amicably resolve these issues in the hope that the MBTA will allow Mill City Tickets to return to serving the MBTA and the community,” Riordan said.
But even as Petros voices his desire to resolve the issues, the MBTA and Lowell transit officials are encouraging potential vendors to come forward and express their interest in the Lowell and North Billerica sites.
“The MBTA is seeking to replace the ticket seller, and staff has reached out to other potential vendors in the area,” Pesaturo said.
Mill City Tickets had been selling commuter rail tickets at the Lowell and North Billerica stations for nearly three years. Typically, the company sold 1,100 to 1,500 tickets per month, Riordan said. MBTA records show Mill City Tickets entered into a contract with the transportation authority in November 2009. Such agreements with the MBTA are “perpetual as long as the terms and conditions haven’t changed,” Pesaturo said.
“This is the only ticket-selling vendor who has failed to make the required payments and comply with MBTA policy,” Pesaturo added, noting that the majority of vendors that sell MBTA tickets are stores, including 7-Eleven.
James H. Scanlan, administrator of the Lowell Regional Transit Authority, said Mill City Tickets is now on a month-to-month lease with his agency. The Lowell-based company leases counter space at the Lowell station, which is formally known as the Gallagher Intermodal Transportation Center.
From that space, Mill City Tickets continues to sell monthly passes for the Lowell transit authority’s parking garages as well as tickets for Peter Pan’s inter-city bus lines and for other private carriers that provide daily service to and from the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut, Scanlan said.
“I have told [Mill City Tickets] that if and when the MBTA finds a new vendor, they would have to relinquish that [counter] space,” said Scanlan, noting that “the primary focus of that space is the commuter rail.”
Scanlan said the fact that commuter rail passengers can no longer purchase their tickets in the station is an inconvenience. The Gallagher center on the edge of downtown Lowell serves not only as the MBTA’s northern terminus on the Lowell commuter rail line, but also as a hub for the transit authority’s bus and van services.
The Lowell Regional Transit Authority serves 14 communities, providing bus service to Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford, and van service for seniors and the disabled in those communities in addition to Acton, Carlisle, Dunstable, Groton, Maynard, Pepperell, and Townsend.
“Like the MBTA, the LRTA is very interested in getting a new vendor in that space,” Scanlan said.
The T also is planning to roll out its MBTA mobile ticketing app for smartphones by Thanksgiving.