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City councilor wants lower prices on commuter rail in Boston neighborhoods

An outbound MBTA commuter rail train drops off passengers at the Wellesley Farms stop.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Should the cost of a commuter rail trips be higher for some Bostonians than others?

City Councilor Michelle Wu doesn’t think so and is trying to organize Boston residents to press the T for cheaper fares for a few city neighborhoods.

Unlike the bus and subway, commuter rail fares are based on distance traveled. While most stations in Boston are designated Zone 1A, which costs $2.25 a ride, a handful are listed as Zone 1, which costs $6.25.

Boston’s Zone 1 stations are all in the southern neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Roslindale, and West Roxbury, although one section of Hyde Park — Readville — is designated as Zone 2, which costs $6.75 a ride.


Wu said the price differences are an issue in Boston because transit riders in some neighborhoods must either pay more to ride the commuter rail, or squeeze onto crowded buses for trips that take longer to get downtown.

“The inequities in commuter rail fare pricing are undermining so many goals that the city of Boston is trying to accomplish for equity and mobility,” Wu said.

Wu, who has said she will focus on transportation issues this term, met with residents and activists late Friday afternoon to start a campaign to lobby the T to lower the prices.

Lower prices in Zone 1 neighborhoods, and in the Zone 2 section of Readville, could lower congestion by encouraging more drivers to take trains to work, she said, and decrease crowding on buses and subways by shifting riders to the commuter rail. The T could make up for lost revenue from the fare change if the change led to a higher number of riders, she said.

However, that could increase crowding on some close-to-capacity commuter rail trips as they near the city.

Transit activists have already had some success pushing for lower commuter fares inside Boston’s boundaries. A few years back, the T knocked the prices at most Fairmount Line stops to Zone 1A, as activists pushed for the line to be treated more like rapid transit. The Boston Landing stop that opened last year in Allston was also made Zone 1A after earlier plans called for higher fares.


MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said zones are generally determined by distance from terminal stations and not by municipal borders. West Roxbury, a Zone 1 stop, is 8 miles from downtown, he noted, while Malden, which is Zone 1A, is about 4.5 miles away.

Pesaturo said the T is reviewing the zone pricing structure as the agency prepares to introduce a new fare collection system in 2020.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com.