No more baker's dozens on commuter rail

The Globe reports the T is halting the sale of 12-ride punch tickets good for six months because too many people were managing to get extra rides out of them. They'll be replaced with 10-ride tickets good for just a month.



Free tagging: 


Not thrilled about this.

By on

I understand their motivation for doing this, and am sympathetic to the MBTA trying to balance its books by reducing fraud, but... this kind of sucks for regular-but-not-daily riders. I'm on the commuter rail most days, so most months I just buy the monthly pass, but there are months that I know I'm not going to be riding enough to justify $150+ in fares, so I'll switch to a 12-ride ticket. I also keep a 12-ride card on hand for those first-of-the-month situations where I've forgotten to buy a new monthly pass. After five years of riding, I can count on one hand the number of times I haven't been asked for a ticket, or the number of times I've gotten a free ride from a double-punch. Maybe this isn't a problem on the my line (Fitchburg) in the way that it is on other lines, but it seems like a crazy overreaction.

Since the surcharge for buying your ticket on the train is going way up (was $1, will now be $3, or more than half the fare for most riders), this reeks of the MBTA trying to squeeze a few extra dollars out of its casual riders, because most of us won't remember to buy a new 10-ride ticket at the start of a new month and will be on the hook for normal fare + surcharge on the first of the month. In fact, most of us probably won't use exactly ten rides in a month (because that's a weird bullseye to hit), so we'll be out the cost of whatever fares go unused, too. In practice, this probably just means that I'll start buying a dozen one-fare tickets at a time, because I don't think those expire like the 10-ride tickets do.

If 12-ride abuse really is a problem, then I applaud them for closing a loophole, but to me, it really looks like they're trying to make up a budget shortfall by intentionally overcharging casual riders. And if that causes casual ridership to drop, then you can be sure that when the T is way over budget again next year, we'll start seeing service cuts on lines whose ridership is down.

all the time...

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I used to get free rides on the Franklin line all the time. The conductors would count the punches on my 12 ride pass and usually count them wrong or be too busy to count so they would just punch the pass and then move on. Most people kept buying 12 ride passes for just this reason.

As a monthly pass holder, I applaud this action

Nothing irritates me more about the 'T than all the free riders on the commuter rail. Some lines are so crowded that the conductors literally can't move down the aisles. So many people buy a 12 ride pass as simple insurance for the infrequent occasion when they are asked for a ticket. I don't do it, simply because I think it's wrong, but I know I'd easily get away with it.

I recall that clause, but did

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I recall that clause, but did not see any mention of it in the final new fare structure.

Regardless of the expiration of newly-purchased single-ride tickets, I predict a good amount of ticket-hoarding at machines in the weeks leading up to the new fares, to lock in the current fare, since current tickets are good for six months.

I used to stay at my parents

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I used to stay at my parents occasionally and go to work from there, taking the commuter rail in. I got double punched almost every day from the same conductor, but that's not MY fault, that's the fault of the MBTA conductors. I'm in the same situation as you. I like to have a 12 ride on hand for when I decide to stay there so I'm not rushing to get a ticket before boarding.

10 Day Passes

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If the conductors aren't punching the 12-day passes like they're supposed to, why do you think they'll punch the 10-day...seriously!

Also, I am currently buying a monthly pass for Kingston they're cancelling weekend service there. They should decrease the zone 7 pass costs if they're going to cut service not increase it.

Expiration solves the not punching problem

You are right to note that the 10 ride pass will be no more likely to be punched than the 12 ride. That's beside the point, though, which is that they now expire quickly enough that people will have to buy replacements whether or not they've been punched.

On your second point, I sympathize, but you are making the wrong comparison. It isn't a more expensive pass and less service compared to the current norm. You should consider it against an even more expensive pass, or an even greater service reduction. Personally, as a zone 1 rider, I'm annoyed that the per zone cost goes down so quickly. Why is my pass for service that extends 1 mile past the end of the subway so expensive compared to a link pass? We all get screwed in some way or another if we want to view it as such. Am I being screwed, or am I happily paying more for the luxury and speed advantage that commuter rail presents over a bus/subway option?

I have been riding the

By on

I have been riding the commuter rail for about a year now and had no idea people did this. It is slightly irritating for someone that buys a monthly commuter rail pass. On the other hand, if I got a free ride every once in a while, I know it would make my day. -Mea

I repeatedly got double

By on

I repeatedly got double punched from the same conductor. But the way he punched it (always in the first box even though there were punches after) made it seem like he was intentionally giving me a free ride - not my fault, that's the MBTA's fault. I don't ride it enough to get a monthly pass, only once or twice a week tops, so it's not like I'm trying to game the system.

Why no Charlie Card?

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My biggest frustration is that there isn't a way of using a Charlie Card. I live off a Zone 1A stop so I sometimes take the train in lieu of the bus/subway but I end up needing to pay cash and then pay again to get on the subway when I get to Boston. If they equip the conductors with Charlie Card readers or put Charlie-to-paper-ticket machines on the platforms, it would help the occasional riders greatly.

A good idea in theory. But

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A good idea in theory. But the technological and administrative costs of E-ZPass are huge.

hear hear! The Charlie Card

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hear hear! The Charlie Card system went into service over 7 years ago, when on earth are they going to bring it to commuter rail? Those of us who have had lunch at the Clover truck or have bought something at the Apple Store aren't buying any excuses about the difficulty of implementing this system.

How would that help the T's

By on

How would that help the T's inefficient fare collection problem? If the conductors can't (or don't) punch a 12-ride, why would they be able to swipe a CharlieCard?

Hire Enough Conductors

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And it wouldn't be a problem.

One month to use 10 rides is stupid - two months, maybe, but occasional riders shouldn't have to deal with this nonsense because the T can't collect fares properly.

This is NOT the fault of the people riding or using these tickets - and yet riders are being punished for it.

And then make them do their job

By on

I have a friend who told me he went for months on a 12 ride pass because he took commuter rail a short distance and the conductors would come through the car (with about a dozen people in it) and just give them all a free ride because it was late, the car wasn't crowded, there were only 5 stops until the end of the line whatever.

That said - I just purchased a 12 pass ride for an intermittent trip I take that says it's good until August - I hope they'll at least honor that because it will probably take at least that long for me to use it up. Hopefully the July 1 implementation only applies to tix bought from here forward.

It's always a little bonus when nobody shows up to collect my fare, but I'm more than happy to pay for the service. Sadly, it's actually far cheaper and way more convenient to drive, but if a friend can give me a ride home I'll take the T and save a little bit of the atmosphere. If the T gets a bit of extra revenue out of it - glad to do my tiny share to help. Now about that Big Dig debt...

I think that Stevil has summed it up nicely.

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Sadly, it's actually far cheaper and way more convenient to drive

I think that this is root of the tree of reasons why we have a lackluster transit system around here.

In places that have (much) better transit systems (e.g., Paris, London) Stevil's quote does not apply. Whether it is the cost of fuel, car ownership, congestion charges, parking (or limited availability thereof) or some combination of the foregoing, it's just makes a lot of economic sense to not drive in those places. And for better or worse, people understand and appreciate out-of-pocket cost far more easily than "true" cost.

Of course, since it is unlikely that the cost of driving in the US will reach European levels anytime soon (little chance of increased gas taxes, even lower chances of a congestion charge or dynamic road tolling), I think the only way that the cost of driving might increase would be if it is measured in another "currencies"?

Consider time cost. If the traffic around here became so bad that it was routinely taking an average of 2x as long to get places as it does now, that might generate some appetite for public transit improvements. I really think that it will take something like this for the calculus to change for enough people to dent the body politic's bias in favor of car travel (from an infrastructure financing perspective). Of course, at that point, it's probably too late.

Or more likely

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They'd start bulldozing more of the city to widen highways, and they'd pay for it by dumping the debt on the MBTA.

There are plenty of conductors

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They're just lazy and/or stupid, and don't have to worry about losing their jobs due to poor performance like the rest of us non-union employees.

Would it be better for the T to pay for "secret shoppers" to ride the trains and catch conductors that don't collect fares? I guess they could also catch the ones who always seem to forgive the on-board surcharge when it's a cute college girl...

You 12-riders are acting like they specifically raised your fares or something -- they didn't. You'll just have to suffer the minor inconvenience of buying a few individual tickets at a time, and you'll still likely get away with a free ride once in a while.

This. Is. Bull****.

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Problem: Commuter Rail conductors have the least efficient possible method for collecting fares, and frequently miss riders and fail to return to ask for tickets.

Solution: Further screw your commuters.

I am a holder of a monthly pass on the Needham Line, but always carry a 12-ride as well. I used mine up this weekend taking my mother and sister into the city -- the conductor was deeply grateful to not have to fumble with cash for two more weekend tourists. Yes, I have "gotten away with" free rides on the Commuter Rail when not holding a monthly pass -- because the conductor disappeared and never returned to take my ticket. I am not an evil scofflaw, and I was prepared to pay. Offended pass-holders are focusing their ire at the wrong culprit, and riding the Rail will get less convenient and streamlined as a result.

I totally agree. And we can

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I totally agree.

And we can thank the NYC commuter railroads for giving the T this idea. They made ticket expirations very short starting last year for this same reason.

On the other hand, the on-board penalties in NYC are about $6, so $3 doesn't seem so bad.

I used to take the commuter

By Jen on

I used to take the commuter rail about 7 years ago and I did the 12 ride thing because it turned into 24 rides. They never punched in the morning because it was just too crowded by the time I got on the train in Zone 3. Those were the days. I know I should have had a Zone 3 pass but the price difference was just too much for me to pass by at the time.

Charlie Card solution

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I agree the obvious solution is getting the Charlie card working. I used to alternate between taking commuter rail and biking, so I would always buy the 12-ride tickets each month with my monthly transit benefit/commuter checks. I found I could stockpile the 12-rides in the summer and fall to cover winter months and this gave me an incentive to ride my bike whenever possible instead of feeling the need to get full value out of a monthly pass.

These days, I live closer and although the rail is visible from my house, I take the bus or bike because it is just more expensive and infrequent (wait 15 minutes for a 10-minute ride?) than I think is worthwhile. Also, the bus + orange line is more entertaining.

How quickly those passes went!

I practically used up a 12 ride pass in a week, never mind 180 days. The conductors at Hyde Park were very conscientious about picking up fares, so a $51 12-ride was used up in rapid fashion (unless I splurged for the $135/month Zone 1 pass).

The T has now cut 150 days from the pass length, eliminated two rides, and upped the price to $55 - a $4 increase (based on the fare increase from $4.25 to $5.50 in Zone 1).

If I purchased a ten ride pass, it would last five inbound rides and five outbound rides in a span of a five-day workweek. Thus, it's not cost-effective for me to buy a 30 day pass when I have plenty of bus service in West Roxbury, including a stop in front of my house.