The MBTA is planning to lower CharlieTicket and cash fares

"It's equity enhancing."

02/07/2014  BOSTON, MA   Passengers walk through the turnstiles below a train arrival clock at the Massachusetts Avenue Orange Line MBTA station in Boston.    (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Passengers walk through the turnstiles at the Mass. Avenue Orange Line station in Boston. –Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

That’s right — the MBTA is planning to lower some fares.

The agency announced plans Thursday to lower the price that riders using a CharlieTicket or cash pay for a single subway or bus trip to the same fare levels as CharlieCard users. The change means that all MBTA riders will pay $1.70 per bus ride and $2.40 on the subway system, regardless of whether they pay their fare with money on a pre-loaded card or change from their pocket.

According to the MBTA, the change will take effect sometime this fall, as part of their larger fare transformation project.

For express bus riders, the CharlieTicket and cash fare reductions will result in a savings of $1 to $1.75 a ride.

CharlieTicket and cash fares before and after implementation. —MBTA
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The MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board approved the change in a unanimous vote during a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon.

Staci Rubin, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, “enthusiastically” supported eliminating the differential as an issue of equity.

“It it discriminatory for cash-paying riders, who are predominantly low-income and people of color, to pay a fare charge for the same trip as someone who uses a CharlieCard,” Rubin testified during the meeting.

According to an equity analysis conducted by the MBTA, the change will indeed disproportionately benefit low-income and minority riders.

“It’s equity enhancing,” said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the FMCB’s vice chair.

The change does not affect transfer rules for CharlieTickets and cash-paying riders. CharlieTickets include free transfers between a select number of bus route and subway lines within two hours of the initial payment, while cash fares do not include any free transfers.

The CharlieTicket and cash fare reductions come after the MBTA has hiked fares across the board four times since 2012, including last year, as officials work to make improvements to the system.

The board also approved two other early aspects of the ambitious fare transformation project, which will be rolled out at a slower pace than originally planned amid projected cost overruns.

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The first allows free bus transfers from Zone 1A Fairmount Line stations, as well as free transfers from the commuter rail line to the subway at South Station. Officials recently installed CharlieCard readers at all but one of the Fairmount Line’s eight stops, as The Boston Globe reported earlier this month — allowing the change to take effect when the MBTA’s pilot to increase service on the line begins this spring.

MBTA officials said Thursday that the hope is the Fairmount pilot could begin during Phase 2 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan, when the transit system begins to ramp service back up toward normal levels.

The board also approved half-price Zone 1A commuter rail fares for MBTA Youth Pass holders, which will also take effect upon the commencement of the Fairmount pilot.

In a statement, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the three changes are “important initial steps toward a complete transformation of the MBTA’s fare system.”

The modernization project, which will eventually allow riders to pay with smartphones and contactless credit cards, is currently on track to be completed in 2024. Other improvements include deploying CharlieCard vending machines, all-door boarding on MBTA buses and at surface Green Line stops, and integrating MBTA ferries and the “entire” commuter rail network into the CharlieCard system.

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