MBTA bus stop sign

Advocates question the impact of MBTA cashless boarding

A key component of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s proposed fare payment system, announced last week, is to eliminate on-board cash payments.

Instead, cash customers will be required to purchase a ticket from a vending machine before boarding. The goal is to speed up the boarding process and to allow all-door boarding, but some advocates are concerned that the change will have a disproportionate impact on low-income riders, seniors, and immigrants.

“These investments on the T are long overdue, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of riders who are unable to pay electronically, for whatever reason — they don’t have the credit to open up an account or maybe their citizenship status doesn’t allow them to,” said  Kimberly Barzola, an organizer for the advocacy group T Riders Union.

The new system will eliminate the fare differential between cash and electronic payments.  Currently customers paying with cash or paper CharlieTickets pay an additional 50 cents per subway ride and 30 cents per bus trip.

“Right now the options are limited if you don’t live near a station where you can add that cash to the CharlieCard; you really actually have no choice but to pay with cash on the bus itself,” said Monica Tibbits-Nutt of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board. “What we’re trying to do is take that out and make that network so vast that you can add that cash to the card and be able to go on the bus at that lower rate.”

The MBTA plans to make the vending machines widely available at stops for buses and light-rail vehicles and also to expand the network of retail stores selling fare products. Chief technology officer David Block-Schachter said the authority will install vending machines at key bus stops and make smart cards available at “a greatly expanded retail network.”  Cubic Transportation Systems, which is developing the new fare collection system, will be responsible for negotiating with vendors.  Link to full story in the Boston Globe.

Photo credit: Susan Mara Bregman

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One Response to Advocates question the impact of MBTA cashless boarding

  1. Thomas Harais November 30, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

    Well meaning advocates are inhibiting public transit from moving forward nationwide. And, from expanding and improving access for all users.

    I don’t think they realize that, their statist blinders are actually curtailing more service for all, including their constituency.

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