Hey, there! Log in / Register

MBTA to phase out CharlieCard sharing; billon-dollar fare system can't deal with it

The State House News Service reports the T will be ending "passbacks" - the ability to tap a friend or relative into the system with your CharlieCard.

Topics: 
Free tagging: 


Ad:


Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

My #1 reason for a free T is that the cost of collecting fares is almost as high as the revenue gained from them. So you have a system that exists almost entirely to make contractors, credit card handling firms, and other entities a lot of money with almost no benefit to actual riders. It's basically stealing from the poor.

If a bulk of the fares went to improving or operating the system that would be justifiable. But instead the money goes to all the components of collecting and handling fares not to mention the time spent on responding to those who refuse to. Not fair.

up
Voting closed 1

And subsidy programs cost a lot to administer too, both in dollars and in time for the beneficiaries. Free the T.

up
Voting closed 0

I'm with you if what you say is accurate, but I'd like to see some proof that it costs as much (or even close) to collect the fares as the fares generate.

up
Voting closed 0

Only semi-related but NYC recently budgeted 260$ million to pay for more policing on the subway to eliminate fare evasion... which costs 200$ million a year. So I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of dumb financial decisions being made in paying for things to force people to pay, all in the name of "no free lunch"

up
Voting closed 0

This is a 1-page overview of the T's budget they publish. The fare recovery ratio last year and in 2022 is a tiny 8-10%. For every $1 in cost, $0.10 is covered by the fare.

Looking to pre-pandemic years it's still low, about 33%. It's not clear when ridership will return to that level but it still costs the same to run the system irrespective of riders. It's also not clear how much the cost of the new fare system is reflected in the 2022 budget. (And yes, going to proof of payment is going to reduce some costs.)

But these numbers include expenses related to collecting fares. Someone with more time can dig deeper to try to break these numbers down but clearly it's a big number since you have payments to buy the hardware and software, the staff to maintain it, the armored cars to move it, the credit card fees (5% average), the police to enforce it, etc.

So while the impact of zero-fares would seem enormous, by the T's own numbers it wouldn't account to all that much looking at the entire budget.

And it need not be one or the other. The commuter rail could keep fares while keeping everything else free. And I'd be all for a dedicated income tax for those earning more then ~$100k who live in the T operating areas, etc.

up
Voting closed 0

Curious how much money you make with your support of anyone making $100k or more paying for a free T? $100k doesn’t get you a lot in Boston with the high housing prices and taxes on everything.

up
Voting closed 0

$100k doesn’t get you a lot in Boston with the high housing prices and taxes on everything.

Just think how little you get if you only make $50k and still need to pay to take the train.

But that's beyond the point. Fares account for a fairly low amount of the T's revenue -- low enough that it can be shifted to other sources and questionable that we're charging riders that amount anyway.

up
Voting closed 0

Fortunately, I don’t ride any form of the T since I’m full remote and have off street parking so it’s moot to me.

Fares accounted for over $650M in 2019, the last ‘normal’ year. If they botched this new fare system financially, that’s on the management.

up
Voting closed 0

And if I made $150k I could afford the $500 additional in taxes.

I don't take the T much at all so the fare has no impact on me one way or another. But I see a huge social value in making the T free. Public transportation should be a real public good and not be funded by user fees.

up
Voting closed 0

Raising more money through raising taxes to pay for the MBTA is how we ended up with this system. There is still no way out, to put this another way, How much profit does the state need to make off the MBTA? Will it be OK, just to break even?

Then fares would need to go up to anywhere from $5-7 each way for the system to be self sufficient. Or you would need to increase the number of daily riders from pre pandemic by 3-4 times, but with so many more people than can fit into the trains, you then you need to add more trains to keep up and that costs something.

Then there is all the lost revenue to monthly passes that quick math shows you pay full price for the first 35 rides and the rest are free. We have to consider that a percentage of the riders are using TAP, Student, and other discounts and will never be paying the full fare. There are free passes given out to every MBTA employee to use anytime. The T has around 2500 workers, and I would estimate another 2500 non mbta state workers get unlimited passes.

The simple solution is privatization. Sell the MBTA to Amazon, they will turn it around and make investments and improvements that the current management can not or does not want to.

up
Voting closed 0

How much profit does the state need to make off the MBTA?

How much profit should the State Police make? Or the Department of Education? Or the Highway department?

Collecting fares on the T is, viewed in the large, a huge, expensive exercise in taking money from one of the public’s pockets and putting it into the other. Pretty much everyone benefits from good public transit: the riders, drivers who enjoy less crowded roads, businesses who enjoy access to a broader pool of employees and customers… it is poor policy to spend a lot of money collecting fares from just one group of beneficiaries.

up
Voting closed 0

and all your fare money will go to Jeff Bezos's toys.

up
Voting closed 0

From the article:

MBTA officials are seeking to require every single rider to carry their own proof of payment, a change that would no longer allow “passbacks” that some groups use today to charge multiple fares to a single CharlieCard.

So, the purpose of eliminating passbacks is to implement this "show your pass" system, which sounds like more enforcement, presumably at some point after the passenger has passed through the fare gate -- because if you're checking at the fare gate, well, that's what the fare gate is for, but for some reason apparently we can't enforce fare payment at the fare gate, which, silly me, I'd think would be the easiest place to enforce it, but we can enforce fare payment by making people show proof of payment at some later time...yeah.

up
Voting closed 0

It could also be about people who close-follow through fare gates, but they've never much seemed to care about that anyhow.

up
Voting closed 1

This seems so silly. It's not like the fare isn't getting paid with a pass back. It is!

Just another way the MBTA is trying to make things harder.

up
Voting closed 0

The issue is they want to switch to a proof-of-payment policy (instead of 100% verification policy as it is now), so they can do things like all-door boarding on the green line and buses. But if pass-back is allowed, someone who didn't pay can just claim "Oh my friend paid with his card but got off a couple stops ago."

I'm not defending this change, just explaining it, though all door boarding can be a big time savings.

up
Voting closed 1

I'm trying to compare the T's new vision for existing transit systems around the US/world.
"Proof of payment" means you validate a ticket and occasionally an inspector walks through and checks everyone. Right? I remember this on light rails in NY/NJ, Baltimore and of course the MBTA commuter rail.

But would there still be gates in the subways? This is like the NYC system (including using a contactless credit card / Apple Pay).

Where did they land on having to "tap out" at the end of your trip as well?
I saw arguments about this capturing millions of revenue from fare-jumpers. But it seemed kind of punitive to me, kind of mean. Slows things down for all to punish a small set of people.

The only "tap out" metro I can recall is DC's, infamously.

up
Voting closed 0

I love DC's metro though. The vaguely-Soviet architecture, the fare machines that were state of the art in 1982...

up
Voting closed 0

DC Metro and also Bay Area Rapid Transit. These systems charge a variable fare that depends on how far you travel.

up
Voting closed 1

...that we can do multiple rides on the Green Line (or, gosh, any line) as long as we've got "proof of payment"? How long is this "proof of payment" good for?

Ah for the days of "outbound above ground is free".

up
Voting closed 0

This is exactly how the London tube works. They've been doing it for like 20 years using the Oyster card and have had contactless payment for 10 years.

up
Voting closed 0

Think transfers. Think daily caps on fares- when I was in Dublin we used the LEAP cards and the fares capped at I believe 5 euros a day, which means something when you are on and off the LUAS all day.

up
Voting closed 0

This is extremely annoying, as I frequently use this basic feature to take visiting friends on the T with me.

up
Voting closed 1

Agreed, being able to use one card for the whole group is efficient, allows out of town visitors to not have to worry about the fare machines, and saves a lot of plastic that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

up
Voting closed 1

Mistake

up
Voting closed 3

has a timing element involved, so that you can't tap twice within 15 or 20 minutes at the same station. This make sense, as you can't let unlimited friends ride free under you pass.

But many people who put money on their Charlie Cards do use "passbacks" to let in their kids, or seniors, to eliminate the need for additional Charlie Cards that could get lost by the kids or seniors, and to save time. To eliminate this feature does not make sense.

The whole new fare collection, as a whole, does not make sense anyway and is a colossal waste of money, so this is par for the course.

up
Voting closed 0

Let’s be honest - most bus drivers look the other way 9/10ths of the time anyway

up
Voting closed 0

are totally disgusted by how awful the fare machines are.

Whoever designed those things needs a new profession - maybe as a fare collector on the T.

up
Voting closed 0

A real proof of payment system would have several advantages: no gates (saving a huge expense for the transit system), and no swiping when boarding buses and trolleys (saving time and hassle for passengers). The T’s new system will have neither of these features.

All this will accomplish is harassment of families/groups where each person doesn’t have their own CharlieCard or Apple Pay account. And remember, they’re going to stop taking cash on buses, so it will be easy to get stranded.

up
Voting closed 0

Other drawbacks of the new system:
- Everyone will be treated as a suspect. You'll be subjected to periodic interrogation by pseudo-cops to prove you paid. If you made a legitimate mistake, don't expect any leniency.
- Everyone will have to swipe on AND OFF the commuter rail. Including passholders. Can you imagine the lines this will create at the platform card readers when a rush hour train dumps several hundred people at 128 or Mansfield? And if you skip it, or forget, or you did it properly but the system has a glitch, there will be some kind of penalty, like your card locking up until you pay a fee to reinstate it.

up
Voting closed 0

I've done a lot of work with groups, typically from out of town, maybe 20 or 30 people, where the group leader wants to pay the fare for everyone. They typically want to take a subway ride, say from Park Street to Harvard, no bus transfer or commuter rail involved. I tell them to get one Charlie Card, and use a credit card to put enough money on it for the proper number of fares, then tap each person through a turnstile, one at a time. It works perfectly.

On the other hand, using 20 Charlie Cards -- or 20 Charlie Tickets -- and then going to the fare machine to make 20 different transactions, each for one fare, is going to be a phenomenal waste of time. And I suspect that after 4 or 5 transactions, the credit card company will get suspicious and block the card from making any more transactions.

Someone at the T has not thought this through all the way. If they want proof of payment for each individual, there has to be another way it can be done.

up
Voting closed 0

Yep, technically everyone would have to buy a $3 fare card to use. The T probably assumes all guests will use their phone for those single fares. (The proposal doesn't say if they are keeping a visitor pass system).

Unclear how they will verify PoP from the T card or your phone.

up
Voting closed 0

The card or your phone send out an encrypted signal, exactly the way tap credit cards and apple/google pay work. That signal is linked to an account that has a record of taps and money and such. Inspectors will read the card or the phone, which will bring up the account, which will say if the person paid.

up
Voting closed 0