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Fare evader, feeling guilty, pays MBTA $300 for free trips

“Several years ago, particularly when I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to try and avoid paying the train fare whenever I could,” Matthew Andrewes wrote in a letter to the MBTA. “I am so sorry. Please accept this money as compensation.”
“Several years ago, particularly when I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to try and avoid paying the train fare whenever I could,” Matthew Andrewes wrote in a letter to the MBTA. “I am so sorry. Please accept this money as compensation.” Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe/File

As a young man, Matthew Andrewes would often skip paying his train fare when traveling on the commuter rail between his home in Concord and Porter Square, where he would disembark and then walk to Davis Square, to play “Magic: The Gathering.”

But the dishonesty recently began to bother him, and so, this month, he decided to right his wrongs.

On June 9, Andrewes, 31, typed up a letter to the MBTA, apologizing for his failure to cough up the cash to take the train during those trips. He then stuffed $300 in cash — about what he believed he owed the transit authority — into an envelope with the letter, and hand-delivered it to the commuter rail ticket window at North Station.

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“Several years ago, particularly when I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to try and avoid paying the train fare whenever I could,” Andrewes wrote in the letter, which was forwarded, with Andrewes’ permission, to the Globe. “I am so sorry. Please accept this money as compensation.”

In a telephone interview, Andrewes, who has just returned home from teaching students English in Japan for four years, said the guilt for his wrongdoing had surfaced, and returning the money to the T was his way of spreading the gospel of the Lord.

“The whole thing with the MBTA is, I felt it was the right thing to do for them, and also for the Lord,” said Andrewes. “I had kind of been praying about it for a bit, and I just — it suddenly popped up in my head that I had owed these guys money.”

Brian Shortsleeve, chief administrator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said in a statement that he appreciated the apology, and Andrewes’ “willingness to take responsibility for his previous actions.”

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“When some people dodge the fare, it’s not fair to all of the others who pay it,” he said in the statement. “And we hope Matt’s expression of regret will reinforce this message.”

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said employees in the fare collection department could recall similar instances of passengers who had dodged fares later apologizing and reimbursing the transit authority — but $300 may have set a record.

“The most ever received was $2.65,” Pesaturo said.

The cash from Andrewes will be added to the commuter rail’s fare revenue, which officials said Monday has grown, to date, 5.8 percent when compared to the last fiscal year.

Andrewes’ decision to pay off his debt comes as T officials grapple with fare evasion on the commuter rail.

In April, they released figures that showed commuter rail customers are largely responsible for the $42 million in fare losses annually. The report pegged the commuter rail losses at $35 million each year.

In response, Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the commuter rail for the MBTA, announced plans to spend roughly $10 million on new fare gates at North, South, and Back Bay stations. The T also said it would be launching “blitzes” to catch scofflaws and encouraged riders to e-mail them if they see someone sneaking on a train without paying.

Last year, 64 conductors were hired to reduce fare evasion, as part of a service improvement agreement between the MBTA and Keolis.

“We are committed to continuing to drive strong revenue growth on the commuter rail through enhanced fare collection efforts and use of the latest technology,” Shortsleeve said.

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As Andrewes demonstrated, every little bit helps.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.