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MBTA pressed for answers from council on commuter rail fares

The City Council wants to meet with representatives of the transit system about what it considers inequitable service for residents.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2017

As the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority considers possible fare hikes for next year, the City Council wants to meet with representatives of the transit system about what it considers inequitable service for residents — especially among commuter rail customers.

At-Large Councilor Michelle Wu zeroed in on an annual payment of more than $85 million that the city pays the MBTA in accordance with a formula set by law. The levy is Boston’s share of local assessments paid by the 175 communities within the T’s service area, Wu said. The sum represents more than 4 percent of the transit system’s $1.9 billion budget, she said.


“It’s time to talk about what we’re getting from this annual $85 million payment that we give to the T,” Wu said Wednesday as she introduced a measure to hold a hearing about the payment. Her proposal was backed by her fellow councilors, though the hearing hasn’t been scheduled.

Earlier this month, Wu began organizing residents to press the MBTA for cheaper commuter rail fares for a few city residents.

“It’s cheaper to go from Hyde Park to Providence than it is to go from Hyde Park to Ruggles on the MBTA commuter rail,” she said. “Our residents aren’t being served equitably across the city of Boston.”

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.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the T plans to review commuter rail fares as it rolls out a new fare collection system beginning next year.


He said in the last two years the MBTA has invested more than $1 billion for new trains, new buses, and infrastructure upgrades. The T has put 375 new buses on roads and plans to begin testing new Orange Line cars next month.

There are 152 Orange Line cars being introduced on the T, plus 252 Red Line cars, the first of which are expected to arrive next year, Pesaturo said.

City Councilor Timothy McCarthy, whose district includes Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Mattapan, said customers who drive to the Readville commuter rail station pay $4 to park and $6.75 to ride into the city.

To avoid paying the commuter rail fare, McCarthy said, many people are taking the Orange Line from Forest Hills Station, crowding the surrounding neighborhood.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.