TESTIMONY: MBTA Leadership & State Legislature to Advance Systemwide Low Income Fare Program This Spring

PRESENTED by Caitlin Allen-Connelly, Project Director | February 24, 2022 

Members of the Board thank you for the opportunity to submit comments today.

While return to work plans are still up in the air, ridership on the MBTA seems to be recovering from the recent surge. A welcome sign that the region could be transitioning to a “new normal” soon.

The fare tariff changes under consideration for implementation, if approved, in July 2022 are well-timed to support a return to public transit, address equity concerns, and aid the Commonwealth’s economic recovery. They also show a strong commitment from the MBTA to meet the moment and lay a foundation for future innovation.

A Better City recommends that the Board eventually approve the whole set of proposed changes but urges the Board to go further with respect to low-income fares and to remain open to additional future fare products that cater to new ridership patterns.

  • The changes to reduced fare products are critical to better serving riders who already qualify for a lower fare, but they fall short of serving and improving the lives of riders who fall outside T eligibility criteria.
  • As relates to low-income fares, MBTA staff and the former Board were fully invested in launching a means-tested fare pilot; the legislature voted in support of low-income fares; the people of Massachusetts support or strongly support low-income fares for public transit.1
    • Therefore, A Better City urges this Board to follow through with June 2021 vote to implement a means-tested fare pilot program on bus and rapid transit in FY23.
  • As for a permanent 5-day Flex Pass – this is a great bridge product for the occasional or hybrid commuter, but it may not be enough to induce demand and get people out of their cars.
    • As new work patterns emerge, A Better City asks the MBTA to continue to respond with innovative fare products that beat out driving and work across all MBTA payment platforms.

Regarding safety, A Better City acknowledges the ongoing implementation of the 2019 Safety Panel Review recommendations; however, three of the four recommendations related to Financial Review are on hold, and we urge this Board to identify “the appropriate level of resources needed to ensure the safe delivery of service ... at the T”.

The Commonwealth’s economic recovery depends on a safe, affordable, equitable, and reliable public transit system. As always, A Better City stands ready to help the MBTA deliver.


1. In a recent statewide poll, 79% of respondents said they either supported or strongly supported low-income fare discounts for public transit


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