T’s new fare system expected to be late, over budget

“It’s going to be much more of a gradual transition than was originally envisioned.”

Boston, MA:  Charliecard being used at the State St.. MBTA station in Boston, Mass. January 26, 2019. 

Photo:  John Blanding, Boston Globe staff
–John Blanding / The Boston Globe, File

The plan to modernize the Boston area public transit system’s fare collection technology is expected to cost more and take years longer to implement than originally thought, agency officials said.

Plans to have the technology installed by 2021 have now been pushed back to 2024, and the cost is expected to jump from $700 million to perhaps $1 billion, officials at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority told The Boston Globe on Monday.

“It’s going to be much more of a gradual transition than was originally envisioned,” said Laurel Paget-Seekins, the MBTA’s assistant general manager for policy.

The new system would allow riders to pay using a smartphone or contactless credit card, to speed up the boarding process and improve fare collection.

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The MBTA selected San Diego industry leader Cubic Corp. to lead the work. But technological glitches with Cubic fare readers and policy debates at the T led to reopened negotiations.

Fares account for about $700 million a year in MBTA revenue, or about one-third of the agency’s $2.1 billion operating budget.

“I think that I can’t read the future, but that our level of fare revenue we collect totally justifies an investment in the technology to do it,” Paget-Seekins said.

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