Here’s how much your commute costs the MBTA

By train, by trolley, by bus, or by boat.

The Commuter Rail lost $5.75 per ride in 2015, according to the MBTA.
The Commuter Rail lost $5.75 per ride in 2015, according to the MBTA. –The Boston Globe

We already knew the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority loses a lot of money. Now, thanks to data released by the transit agency Wednesday, we know how much the T loses on each type of vehicle it operates.

Buses saw the biggest overall losses last fiscal year, with $114 million in revenue compared to $437 million in operating costs. The figures would vary significantly bus line by bus line, because the T’s 20 busiest routes account for more than half of all bus ridership, MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve said.

Heavy rail service—the Orange, Blue, and Red lines—ran the T $349 million to operate last year, compared to $243 in revenue. Light rail—the Green Line and the Mattapan trolley—also lost about $100 million, with costs of $184 million and $87 million in revenue.


With subway service accounting for more than 60 percent of MBTA rides, the losses per subway ride were lower than other forms of transportation: 61 cents for heavy rail (the lowest per-ride subsidy of any form of travel) and $1.39 for light rail.

Buses, the second largest mode of transportation, lost $2.86 per ride last year. And each commuter rail ride, based on 33.5 million rides and $193 million in losses, cost the T $5.75. The Ride, which provides transportation for people with disabilities, lost the most on a per-trip basis, at $45.53 per ride on 2.1 million rides.

“The Ride is an [Americans with Disabilities Act]-required paratransit service, so I don’t think we’re going to necessarily compare the Ride to other things,’’ Shortsleeve said.

In addition to fares on each form of transportation, the revenue figures include parking, advertising, and other cash-flow sources specific to each mode.

The T’s overall losses weren’t as steep as these figures suggest. They are meant to show how each mode financially performs on its own. That means the revenue numbers do not include systemwide revenue that cannot be attributed to any specific mode but which would lower the size of each mode’s deficit, like a portion of the sales tax given by the state to the T. And the expenses do not include MBTA debt payments.


Shortsleeve said the mode-by-mode revenue and ridership data will help the agency consider its options on topics ranging from fare increases to capital planning to route adjustments. T officials have begun exploring the possibility of fare hikes next year.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with [the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management] Control Board discussing the broad financials. It is as important to look at our financials by mode … because that will inform a lot of the decisions that will get made over the coming months,’’ Shortsleeve said.

The busiest stops on the MBTA:

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