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MBTA staff present plans for Low-Income Fare implementation, signal affordability as new budget priority

BOSTON Transit riders and workers, community leaders, and members of the Public Transit Public Good (PTPG) coalition joined forces to speak out for the implementation of a low-income fare system during the MBTA’s Board Meeting on Thursday, March 23. 

At the meeting, MBTA staff presented a plan to “develop and launch” a low-income fare program over the next fiscal year. Governor Healey has included $5 million of Fair Share Amendment revenue in her recommended Commonwealth budget. The Authority’s preliminary budget presentation included the low-income fare program in a list of new and recent priorities.

The urgent need for a low-income fare program was underscored by the MBTA’s first update to its federally required rider survey since 2017, which showed large increases to the proportion of riders who are low-income and who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). 

Systemwide, the percentage of low-income riders increased to 48% from 29%, and the percentage of BIPOC riders increased to 58% from 34%. The adoption of a reduced-fare program is necessary to ensure affordability and mobility for these riders. 

“Fare revenues are one of the most regressive forms of funding, meaning that the people who can least afford it are carrying an outsize burden when it comes to the costs of running the MBTA,” said Sara Arman, Director of Health Equity & Policy at GreenRoots. “This is fundamentally inequitable along lines of both race and income. The answer is to lessen the burden on low-income riders with a low-income fare and improve service and safety to ensure the MBTA is an attractive and efficient option for all people.”

Testimony from today’s meeting included public support from MBTA riders and community leaders. Read their important messages below:

“We must implement a low-income fare for all MBTA riders. The public supports it, and the governor and many legislators in the state house have expressed their support. The T must make this a priority in their budget this year and see it as an opportunity to build on the discounted fare programs that are critical like the senior/disability pass, the student pass, and the youth pass program,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director at Community Labor United and a co-chair of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition

Matsueda continued his testimony: “We’re talking about 60,000 families saving over $30M! This is about racial justice, it’s about the right to access and mobility, it’s about having pride in a public transit system that is working to rebuild trust with the riding public.”

“Low-income and transit-dependent riders from the T Riders Union, and members of the Public Transit Public Good coalition, urgently call for a solution to a critical issue. Imagine having no other means of reaching your destination than public transportation, and yet being unable to afford the fares. This should never be a choice that any person should have to make. For low-income riders, it could mean sacrificing food, healthcare, or education for their children, or even resorting to sneaking their kids onto public transport,” said Mela Bush-Miles, Transit-oriented Development Director at Alternatives for Community and Environment. “The solution is clear: pass a low-income fare. By making public transportation more affordable, we can provide a lifeline for those who need it most.”


About Public Transit Public Good Coalition: 

Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit to learn more.

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