How the T’s proposed fare hike stacks up against other cities

The Boston Globe

Charlie may need to pay a few more nickels for his next ride on the MBTA. But he’d need even more in some other US cities.

The MBTA’s proposed fare hike for this July would increase the cost of a subway ride by 15 cents, to $2.40 — and that’s only if you use an electronic CharlieCard. With a paper CharlieTicket or cash, it would cost $2.90. A bus ride, meanwhile, would cost $1.80 with a CharlieCard, while the cash cost will remain at $2. A monthly bus and subway pass would increase $5.50 to $90, meaning riders would break even after 37 subway rides or 50 bus trips.


Still, even at $2.40, the T’s single-ride fare would basically be in line with other subways across the country — higher than some, while lower than others.

Direct comparisons are in some cases difficult because some cities have different fare structures and policies. For example, the MBTA allows riders to transfer from buses to the subway and back to the bus for free, while others charge for even a single transfer. There are also big differences in the size of these systems: the MBTA’s subway, for example, covers 64 miles, compared with New York City’s 245 and Atlanta’s 48.

Nonetheless, here’s a look at how much standard subway and bus fares and passes cost at various US transit agencies. (Leaving aside, for now, that some European systems are starting to explore making public transit free.)

New York City

Subway and bus trips cost $2.75, and officials are considering a plan to increase to $3. A monthly pass costs $121, and could increase to about $127 under the recent proposal.

Washington, D.C.

Subway fares are based on distance traveled and time of day, but can range from $2 to $6. The pass product is slightly more complicated: Riders put money on their electronic fare cards based on how far they travel, and receive free rides for the rest of the month after 18 round-trips. A trip from Crystal City in Arlington, Va., to RFK Stadium, for example, would cost $3.05 during rush hour, but $2.60 midday.


The MBTA is considering potential price structures that fluctuate based on distance or time of day, though such a policy wouldn’t go into effect for at least a couple of years, when new technology is installed.

San Francisco

Bay Area Rapid Transit, which serves San Francisco and surrounding cities, is a sort of subway-commuter rail hybrid that charges based on distance. Short trips cost as little as $2, while the longest trips are $13.15. (The T’s most expensive commuter rail fare, by comparison, would jump 75 cents under the proposed increase, to $13.25.) San Francisco’s separate municipal transit system, which includes buses and street cars, charges $2.75 for cash payers, and $2.50 to those using a fare card; a monthly pass is $78, and $94 to also use the BART system within city limits.

Los Angeles

Car-happy southern California charges the low transit fares of just $1.75 a ride by either rail or bus; monthly passes run $100.


King County Metro, which runs bus service in and around Seattle, charges $2.75. Elsewhere, the city’s limited light rail network charges based on distance, with costs ranging between $2.25 and $3.25.



Subway rides are $2.50, and buses are $2.25. A 30-day pass costs $105.


Bus and subway rides cost $2.50. A monthly pass is $96.


Bus and subway each cost $2.50, with $95 passes.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.