fb-pixel Skip to main content

MBTA plans a $1 cut in fare for The Ride

MBTA officials announced Tuesday that they hope to reduce the fare for The Ride from $4 to $3 .Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File

MBTA officials plan to roll back the fare for The Ride from $4 to $3 — a significant triumph for advocates who have argued that a doubling of the fare last year had a grave impact on the lives of senior citizens and people with disabilities who rely on the T’s special door-to-door service.

The announcement came Tuesday at a meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s finance committee, where T officials presented their plan to cut the cost of a Ride ticket; the price would still be more than the previous $2 fee, but the change is a significant nod to those who rely on the service, they said.

Advertisement



“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” said the T’s general manager, Beverly A. Scott.

She said the reason for reducing the fare is simple: Ridership data, and testimony from riders themselves, made it clear the fare increase hurt the disabled community more than officials expected.

Seven months after the fares took effect, some Ride users told the Globe that they were forced to cut back on doctor’s visits, grocery trips, and social outings because they could not afford transportation.

Before the fare increase, the T had estimated ridership would decrease by 10 percent. Instead, records show ridership has slid 18.5 percent since the new fare began in July 2012.

“If in fact this agency had known that this would have been the impact,” Scott said, “the staff would not have made that recommendation.’’

Members of the finance committee said they would recommend the T’s proposal be approved by the full MassDOT board of directors at its Dec. 11 meeting. If approved, the $3 fare would probably go into effect by mid-January, MBTA assistant general manager Charles Planck said.

Members of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council — which had members at every MassDOT board meeting for the last 18 months to protest the fare increase — burst into applause at the announcement.

Advertisement



Wilhelmina Melrose, a 62-year-old member of the group who is blind and has limited mobility, said in a statement the committee’s decision demonstrates that the pleas of Ride-dependent commuters like herself had finally gotten through.

“This is a big step,” Melrose said. “Finally some relief is on the way.”

Still, the Massachusetts Senior Action Council warned that it is only a partial victory, with many people still struggling with transportation costs.

The group’s ultimate goal: A tiered fare structure that would offer tickets at prices based on a rider’s income.

It’s a concept that T officials have considered for years as a potential way to raise revenue from a federally mandated service that costs significantly more than is covered by fares.

But Scott said the prospect of tracking and verifying income levels of riders would be a daunting task for the transit agency. Instead, she said, the T may partner with other state organizations that keep records on income levels, but establishing such a shared information system could take years.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the panel discussed efforts to urge Ride-eligible users to take trains or buses for some trips.

The Ride fare cut comes just as T officials are ramping up efforts to institute another systemwide fare increase in July. But this time, T officials are prevented by recently passed legislation from raising fares more than an average of 5 percent.

Advertisement



Lowering fares for The Ride to $3 will be costly for the T. A recent study suggested reducing the fare by 50 cents, bringing it to $3.50, would result in a $600,000 decrease in revenue, and an increase of 28,300 trips per year that would cost the T an additional $1.2 million, for a combined loss of $1.8 million.

With a $1 fare decrease, the shortfall could feasibly be doubled to $3.6 million, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

The T’s chief financial officer, Jonathan R. Davis, said agency officials are working on a way to cover the lost revenue.

But even as the agency is lowering fares for The Ride, Planck said, T officials began a series of workshops for people with disabilities to educate them on how to use the train system, and have extended a pilot program that offers them free Charlie Card passes.

Alan G. Macdonald, a member of the MassDOT board, encouraged the transit agency to continue the policy, saying, “I think every time an eligible Ride user uses a fixed route, it’s a savings to the system.”


Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.