FMCB Public Comment Testimonies | New Transit Pass Options are Needed

Prepared by Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government & Community Affairs


Members of the MassDOT Board of Directors, General Manager Poftak, Secretary Tessler, thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.

As workers and employers are preparing for the returning to the work place this fall, transportation options for commuters are going to play a larger role than ever.  We are asking the MBTA and MassDOT to show leadership by creating new pilot programs related to commuter passes and the price we ask people to pay for a ride.

The MBTA is an integral and critical part of the Commonwealth’s decarbonization roadmap as the transportation sector accounts for 44% of Massachusetts greenhouse gas emissions. The region cannot afford to fall back to pre-COVID-19 congested roadways or worse—the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and climate goals will be heavily influenced by the performance of public transit system and the number of people choosing mass transit to commute.

Right now, the current Commuter Rail fare products, like monthly passes and options from the MBTA in the M-Ticket App, cater to pre-pandemic work schedules and routines.

The MBTA must induce demand this fall and beyond with new, flexible fare products and promotions that are hybrid commuter-centered.  You should be providing greater flexibility for riders to pay for what they use and appeal to the commuters with a hybrid work schedule.   This would include ideas like:

  • Promotional rates on monthly passes
  • Discounted rates for passes designed for less than 5 days per week, possibly even a 2-3 day pass.
  • Free parking at commuter rail stations

We need to get these options in place as soon as possible, especially for September.


Other transit agencies are taking these steps.  In California, the BART system is offering 50% off ticket prices in September. The Chicago Transit Authority implemented large discounts on their 1 day, 3 day, and 7 days unlimited ride passes. The SEPTA system in Philadelphia created new options, with their “3 day Convenience Passes”. It would be great to see the MBTA take similar steps on a temporary basis.

Fortunately, there are resources already in place to support this work, from the three rounds of federal transit aid passed to address COVID-related impacts.  However, the primary reason to do these promotions is not about the budgetary cost-estimates.  The new incentives to travel on the MBTA will likely bring in additional revenue that would otherwise be lost if commuters choose to drive or decide to stay home.

Thank you for hearing my testimony and we hope to hear more from the Board on this important issue.

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