During a meeting Monday afternoon, T officials announced that they will offer a bundled, five-day commuter rail pass from July 1 through the end of September. Priced at 90 percent of the cost of five round-trip tickets, the “Five-Day Flex Pass” is aimed at traditional commuter rail riders whose regular commutes to work have — like so many things — been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar to the T’s seven-day pass for the subway and bus system, the flex pass provides an alternative for individuals who don’t want to shell out several hundred bucks for a monthly commuter rail pass. However, it can be used for any five days of travel within a 30-day period.
“The idea here is that certain folks who may have purchased a monthly pass in the past may be working with a partial work from home schedule, so a monthly pass may not be the right product for them,” Steve Poftak, the general manager of the MBTA, said during the agency’s Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting Monday.
Poftak said that, due to “time and technology” constraints, the discounted pass will be available on the mTicket mobile app (i.e. not paper tickets). The flex pass is available for all commuter rail zones and interzone trips.
As part of the pilot, the MBTA will also expand its Youth Pass program to allow teenagers and low-income young adults to purchase half-price fares for all commuter rail zones at ticket windows, onboard, and through the mTicket app.
The agency also announced that expired commuter rail tickets — both in paper and on the mTicket app — that weren’t able to be used because of the coronavirus outbreak will be accepted for the next 90 days, beginning June 22.
The commuter rail has seen ridership practically evaporate during the pandemic, as many white-collar workers continue to work remotely, even as nonessential offices in Massachusetts have been allowed to reopen. Poftak said Monday that the commuter rail system has begun to see ridership inch back up — but only to 3.5 percent of its baseline ridership, which remains the lowest of all MBTA modes.
However, as the MBTA ramps service back up across the system, officials have looked to use the additional capacity on the commuter rail to ease crowding, where possible, on other lines. This past Friday, officials announced they will also resume the recent pilot program offering Zone 1A — or subway-level — fares at commuter rail stations in Lynn, beginning in July through the end of August.
Poftak described the initial Lynn program —which was launched while part of the Blue Line was shut down for repairs — as a “pilot of convenience.” But due to popular demand, he said the MBTA wanted to give it more of a chance.