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MBTA riders to save up to $500/year with a low-income fare system, new report reveals

According to the new report by PTPG Coalition, more than 90,000 riders to benefit if a low-income fare system is implemented by the MBTA

Massachusetts – Nearly 90,000 MBTA riders could save an average of almost $500 annually per rider if a low-income fare system is implemented, a new study by the Public Transit Public Good coalition reveals. This report comes on the heels of growing public opposition to MBTA’s recent failure to include a low-income fare in a new slate of fare changes. 

“The numbers from this report are clear — a low-income fare system would put money back in the pockets of Massachusetts riders and help our families in need,” said Sam Montaño, Director of Organizing, GreenRoots. “A low-income fare pilot program would cost about $42 million, around 2% of the operating budget. The MBTA can use one-time funds to run a year-long pilot program, and they must do this now, instead of ignoring the needs of our communities and MBTA riders.”

According to the report, the nearly $500 saved by each rider each year would give almost $50 million back to low-income families. These additional funds could be used towards groceries, home and personal services, clothes and shoes for growing youth, and co-pays for necessary medicines.

“$500 more will help me and others worry less about providing food for the household and paying rent as head of the house, and that is something for the MBTA administration and our legislators to think hard about,” said Emmanuell De Barros, Bus 93 and the Silver Line rider. “To think that I could save $500 more every year would change the way my family makes decisions. We won’t have to choose between cutting self-care, healthy foods, or house amenities like Wi-Fi speed, and taking the T to my job. We would be able to do both without cutting corners and compromising.”

Over the last few decades, the cost of the MBTA has been dramatically increasing, which has resulted in long working hours for riders to afford the MBTA. A minimum-wage worker has to work 75.8 hours per year to be able to afford monthly LinkPasses, per the recent report

“As a bus driver, my goal is to get the passengers from Point A to Point B safely and on time,” said Ed Cora, MBTA Bus Operator and Boston Carmen’s Union Member. “When my passengers get on, they tell me why they can’t pay the fare and I have heard a lot of stories. You know who gets on your bus when you live in the neighborhood. And you know these passengers are going through a difficult time. I feel that a lot of hard-working people have a hard time paying bills. I know a lot of families will benefit from the low-income fare.”

Bus and subway riders would save an average of $475 per year, while riders taking the commuter rail would save an average of $875 per year. Advocates also say that the significant savings to use the Commuter Rail could increase the number of overall trips, thus increasing MBTA ridership and revenue. Per the report, if a low-income fare induced a 5% increase in trips on the commuter rail, that would create $2.7 million in new fare revenues.

“A low-income fare system will not only help families but could possibly bring new revenue and new riders into our public transit system because people can afford to ride more, especially on the commuter rail,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15. “We know there are opportunities here to bring relief to our families, and both the MBTA Board and the legislature can take action now to provide that relief.”

Ahead of the MBTA Board meeting on Thursday, workers and riders are calling on the Board to move forward with a one-year pilot of the low-income fare.

According to the report, “The MBTA is considering using $500 million of ‘one-time funds’ – mostly federal aid – for ‘one-time spending.’ The MBTA Board should use a fraction of these funds to support a low-income fare pilot and assist struggling riders.” 

Coalition members are also urging the Massachusetts legislators to move quickly to pass H.3526, An Act Relative to Low-Income Fares. This important legislation would direct the MBTA to start a permanent discounted-fare program for low-income people.

It would also open a path for Regional Transit Authorities to institute reduced-fare programs or fare-free systems, extending the benefits of transit affordability to all corners of our Commonwealth. 


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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