Keolis to scrutinize commuter-rail tickets at South Station in evening rush; says it will try to avoid gumming up the commute

The T and Keolis say they're going to be doing a little "Fare is Fair" exhibit at South Station during the evening rush hour, in during which Keolis teams will be checking passengers for valid tickets before they get on trains on certain platforms.

Signage will alert passengers about the “Fare is Fair” event. In an effort to reduce passenger inconvenience, Keolis is testing an “Express Lane” for monthly pass holders and passengers with an activated mTicket.

Keolis says the checking is the start of an effort to collect an estimated $35 million in revenue lost to people who don't pay their fair fares. Ultimately, the company wants to build a "ring of steel" at South, North and Back Bay stations to snare would be fare beaters.



Free tagging: 


They better have at least 5-6

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They better have at least 5-6 people checking. When they call the train for boarding, there's a huge mass of people rushing all at once to get their preferred seats on the train.

Thats the way it is on buses

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Thats the way it is on buses and above ground green line at rush hour, but the T just allows that to cause delays. Why are commuter railers not treated the same? Slow the train boarding to get all riders like on buses.

Better yet

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Instead of delaying everyone on commuter trains, let's stop delaying everyone on buses and the green line.

The timing is key

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As someone wisely suggested in a previous post about this topic, if the track announcements were made sooner, there wouldn't be such a mad rush all-at-once to get on. If people filtered in over 10-15 minutes, the ring-of-steel workers would not cause any delay in boarding.


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...obviously some people won't or can't show up too early. But I've seen certain Haverhill trains which tend to be oversubscribed (i.e., history of consist being smaller than demand) where people just start showing up. The only factor that reduces the boarding scrum is the pre-boarding effect (regulars know who their conductors are and get on when they see the crew show up, not waiting for the track announcement).

I've found that boarding announcements on trains

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out of North Station are made almost exactly ten minutes before the train's scheduled departure time. However, IMO, they should be at least fifteen minutes before departure, as they were in the days when the B&M and Amtrak operated the commuter rail.

commuter rail riders need to stop sneaking off without paying

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Passengers need to do their part too. Dont sneak off without paying, those of us that do pay shouldnt have to subsidize you. Just because a conductor hasn't gotten to you before you get off the train doesn't mean you can reuse the ticket any more than a diner can sneak out of a restaurant if their waiter doesn't notice.
The commuter rail is the highest subsidized ride on the T system (except for the ride), pay your share. If riders would buy tickets ahead of time at the many machines that sell them, and not try to reuse them, the T would have more money and the trains would have fewer delays.

They could make it a little easier to use your fare

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What is this "pay because it's fair" crap anyway. It's not like a train ride is an MP3 or something. They need to put gates at the stations and use an exit fare system. Remind me again why it should be that you can walk onto a train without having paid any fare? Just make people pay well before they get to the platform and give them somewhere to wait with other paying customers. Are they worried this is elitist? Would it somehow damage our perception of the commuter rail?
Seems to me like it would suck way less.

Pardon my incredulity

These are the same conductors/fare collectors who don't count riders and who often skip collecting entirely on crowded trains? ...the same ones who rely on their memory for whom they have hit up for a ticket (it's a rare conductor who bothers with those little tags they can stick on seat slots))?

My typical commuter-line is the Fairmount. They do not make any effort to count. Many refuse the change, like the extra dime. Several just said they don't bother and two have told me it's hard enough to keep track of quarters, much less dimes and nickels.

I don't see how any form of accounting would be at all accurate, not even in telling how many riders there were. Couple that with those who flash the zone passes and ignorance grows.

Maybe here's the place to plug the obvious — handheld devices to accept Charlie Cards and Passes. I don't see how the reader cost could not be amortized quickly from increased revenue.

To each his/her own, I guess.

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I think that handheld readers would be great.

That said, I have been riding the Framingham/Worcester line for just over two months. My fare has been collected (i.e., my activated mTicket has been inspected) on every single trip save, perhaps, one. In that instance, the conductor might have seen my clearly displayed and activated mTicket as he was rushing to get to the end of the coach to open the doors - I can't say for sure because I'm one of those people who DOESN'T WAIT UNTIL ASKED TO ACTIVATE MY MTICKET (said like George Costanza's famous "I'm in my office!!!").

Notwithstanding the above, it sounds to me like the Fairmount line should be one that gets some love from FareisFair on a priority basis.

This will end well.

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What could possibly go wrong?

(somewhat tempted to go and film the shit show, but I know someone else will do it for me)

"...on certain platforms."?

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"...on certain platforms."?

Will they base the selection on some sort of hard data that shows which lines perform the worst on fare collection, do some actual random selection of lines, or do something stupid like choosing on a "population" basis?


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...with needing 4-8 people per platform (probably more for South Station, and more with this new "two lane" system) they can't possibly hope to cover every platform at rush hour.

I understood THAT.

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I understood THAT.

The point of the question was and is "what will be their basis for choosing which of their customers to gift with this extra-special attention?"

Yes, they could cover every platform because don't need to cover all of them all of the time. Any competent statistical research firm (if they don't have somebody in-house at the T) could figure out how many lots and sublots they need for a statistically adequate sample across all lines.


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See my comments here and Kaolin's response about these nonsense operations.

Also see the following e-mail to me from Ronan Coatanea at Keolis:

I am writing in response to your inquiries during our recent Reddit AMA regarding Keolis’ “Fare is Fair” initiative and following the message you also sent to Leslie Aun.

The idea behind “Fare is Fair” is simple – all passengers must pay their fare every time they ride the train. We are working towards a day when every fare is checked for every trip. We are not there yet, but this initiative is one of the approaches we are deploying to improve fare collection. There are two components on which we are working to fix fare evasion.

First, we need to ensure that conductors are collecting fares. When we hear otherwise, conductors’ management investigates the report and works with the teams to resolve the issue. On the other hand, we are also working to ensure that our passengers are aware of the correct fares and are ready to pay their way. You are absolutely right , the vast majority of our passengers do pay their fares, however there are some who deliberately seek to game the system. This creates tremendous difficulties for our conductors and a sense of inequity among paying passengers. While passengers are generally permitted to purchase their fares aboard the train, we do require fares to be paid before boarding trains during “Fare is Fair” events. Our teams of conductors, accompanied by the T Police are inviting passengers to show their tickets, activate their Mobile app and propose passengers with not ticket or tempting to travel with an invalid ticket to buy one prior to boarding the train.

“Fare is fair” is one of the ways deployed to reduce fare evasion and has proven to be effective. This initiative has been generally well-received even if following those events some passengers also got in touch with us to express, like you did their dissatisfaction. We regret that you feel you are being inconvenienced.

Thanks again for being a commuter rail passenger and for giving us this opportunity to hear your concerns regarding “Fare is Fair.”


Ronan Coatanea
Customer Service Director
470, Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110 USA
Email: [email protected]

Please e-mail Mr. Coatanea at [email protected] and let the Keolis Customer Service Director know how you feel about being treated as a criminal fare evading cheat by these operations.

If your so concerned about

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If your so concerned about money why give T and Keolis employees free ride and free parking at the Franklin Dean station?

The idea behind “Fare is Fair” is simple – all passengers must pay their fare every time they ride the train

This is interesting because 2 out of 5 morning a week fares are not collected from either Windsor Gardens or Walpole due to the dangerous overcrowding that goes on.

While passengers are generally permitted to purchase their fares aboard the train, we do require fares to be paid before boarding trains during “Fare is Fair” events.

As always, Keolis will have two windows open during rush hour staffed by the surly.

Our teams of conductors, accompanied by the T Police are inviting passengers to show their tickets, activate their Mobile app and propose passengers with not ticket or tempting to travel with an invalid ticket to buy one prior to boarding the train.

Wouldn't a better use of the T's police force be getting rid of the winos and junkies that are overrunning South Station? You can't go 5 steps without someone looking for a handout.

We regret that you feel you are being inconvenienced.

The first day - THE FIRST DAY Keolis took over they had a major malfunction - it's gotten worse ever since - the absolute worst.

I am with ya but

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I am at South Station every day and do not see an issue with, as you say, the "winos and junkies".

Yeah, well..

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with all due respect to Mr. Coatanea, perhaps he has not recently stood in the line at South Station's Amtrak window (where one has to purchase a commuter rail ticket). The line can be quite long and move at a snails pace. So, hey, let us frustrate some our customers with just more than crappy service, lets force them to buy a ticket before they board and perhaps miss their train. That really makes sense.

On the rail lines I regularly ride (both morning and evening rides home), conductors do collect the fares. So I am not sure why Koelis thinks that the conductors are not collecting fares. (What prevents conductors from collecting fares, Mr. Coatanea, is when you do not have enough cars and passengers are stuffed in the aisles. You might of missed it but this is still a problem.) Sure they will be a few scofflaws from time to time, but I think most of us know the correct fare amount.

So now I have to wait in a line and flash my pass for the T police as well as conductors during these events, to prove I am on the up and up? Great. Just Great. Way to add insult to injury, Koelis. Oh, one more thing, Mr. Coatanea, last night, my train, the 6:15pm Franklin, was held up because of, as the conductor said, a large screw up at South Station (apparently they had folks boarding the incorrect train for Franklin and we had to wait till they all walked over to our train). Perhaps you should pay more attention to general management issues rather than creating these dog and pony shows.

Show us the numbers Keolis

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How much of the $35M is addressable simply by having conductors do their jobs? If conductors actually checked everyone's ticket and rejected invalid/expired tickets, wouldn't that take care of a huge fraction of this supposed fare "evasion?" If the T wants help riders to help collect fares, they should transition to proof-of-payment. Until then, they should stop treating riders like potential criminals because their own staff refuses to properly collect fares.

Good God.

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Ok. If the "express lane" turns into a clusterf*&k and is not moving (i.e. is gummed up) because, oh, I don't know, the majority of people that use the commuter rail probably use some sort of a pass, I am not going to wait in line so a Keolis flunky can check my pass. Screw em.

This is GREAT for scammers

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So I can just buy a cheap ticket for Newtonville to get on the train then ride all the way to Worcester. Awesome!

The vast majority of "fare evaders"

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occur when the conductors don't check the tickets.

And the vast majority of why they don't is because the train is overcrowded. That happens during rush hour because the T doesn't have enough equipment. On off-peak trains, people are herded into only a couple of cars, and everyone is checked.

I don't ride the commuter rail often, and when I do it is usually on the Lowell Line. My fare is always collected. I once got a free ride on the Providence line back from Mansfield on a Sunday morning. You know, the first train around 11:45 am. Of course, that train is always crowded because THE FIRST TRAIN LEAVES PROVIDENCE AT 11:20 AM.

How is that the passenger's fault that the conductor never came by to collect the cash?

stop making excuses for not paying your fare

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Its the riders responsibility to pay before they leave the train station. All these people here are classic blame everyone else- blame the conductors, blame the T equipment, blame Keolis.

The rider needs to buy a ticket, if the conductor is too busy before you leave the train to take your ticket, you dont get to use it again. You still have to activate your ticket (you are supposed to activate when you board) even if the conductor doesnt walk up to you and ask you to. Just do it. Buy your ticket with your phone. Every subway stop (including North, South, Back Bay) and many commuter rail stations have ticket kiosks if you dont have a smartphone to buy it.

If people would stop trying to evade paying and just did it beforehand and activated if they use mticket, everything would be a lot smoother.

That could work

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if the train stations actually had ticket kiosks. There is no machine at Mansfield, and the station is not open on Sundays. AFAIK, Lowell, one of the busiest stations on the north side, doesn't either.

But I do remember there are machines on every MetroNorth platform in New York.

Say it with me: "cash on board"

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Its the riders responsibility to pay before they leave the train station

This is simply false. It is perfectly legal and acceptable to pay cash on board, which is something about 10-20% of riders do according to Keolis. And you can't pay cash without a conductor to collect it from you. So maybe take a step down from that high horse, eh?

It sounds like you want proof-of-payment, which is probably the way to go (unless you ask ring-o-steel Keolis). But you're not going to get people self-punching in a system where conductors are responsible for fare collection.

That's right, but it's silly.

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the pay onboard thing is legal. And it's silly.

There is no reason to allow this for people boarding at stations where there are kiosks or machines to buy tickets, and the only stations that should be allowed to not have machines to buy tickets (if any) are the ones with the absolute lowest ridership.

What does "activate your ticket" mean?

I buy a ticket at the machine and hand it to the conductor when he comes around to collect it. I've never heard of "activation" and I don't know what it means or how to do it.

As far as activation,

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there is a mobile app you can use (powered by a company called justride) to pay for your fare on a smartphone. Once on-board the train you press a button to "activate" your ticket, which animates the screen with a "color scheme" of the day for the conductor to verify. I usually use this app myself inbound, but sometimes my phone battery doesn't cooperate if I forget to bring my charger.

But not everyone has a smartphone. Inbound to Boston on the weekends from Lowell, more than 50% of the people pay by cash. They are people who go into town for the day or are traveling to Logan. From observation, most people who commute during rush hours already have passes.

The MBTA does add a surcharge for some cash payments (from the T's website):

A $3.00 surcharge wil (sic) be added to tickets purchased on-board all trains departing from North Station, South Station, and Back Bay Station. Monday-through-Friday customers will be charged $3.00 surcharge by the conductor when a ticket is purchased on board from a station with an MBTA ticket vending machine or where a Ticket Vendor is open. A list of these stations can be found on the MBTA website here:

For real?

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I think our good friend and regular contributor Ron was playing Mickey there.


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I know he's a longtime contributor, but I'm sure there are many people who had the same question, since I do, in fact, see so many people paying with cash on the weekends when I do ride.

The T does not exactly do a great job promoting the app (which you have to navigate to on their website under Rider Tools --> App Showcase).

I've never understood the

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I've never understood the details of the surcharge rule.

Does the surcharge only apply on weekdays? Or is it every day at North, South, and Back Bay; but only on weekdays at other stations with a machine or ticket vendor (even if the vendor is open weekends)?

Welcome to Fare Collection Theater

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It's just like the random bag checks. Primary purpose is to demonstrate that the T & Keolis are "serious" and "doing something about it." This is easy, make some signs, pay a little overtime to rookie assistant conductors, and voila, "fare enforcement!"

Real changes take a lot of work and money (and I'm looking at you MBTA, this is far more your fault than Keolis). Upgrading lines so trains operated can match demand, getting a large and modern fleet so trains aren't overcrowded due to car shortages, designing a modern fare system that can eliminate this theatrical performance. But those things take money and time.

Does anyone know why almost

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Does anyone know why almost every line with Sunday service starts just as early on Sundays as it does on Saturdays, but not the Providence line even though it's the BUSIEST LINE IN THE SYSTEM?

Did it work?

So how bad were the backups at these gates?

And how did they compensate the people who were there at the last second because of T delays, but missed their trains because of this little charade?