MBTA Fare System (Charlie, AFC 2.0, Zone, Discounts)

Ruairi

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
Messages
317
Reaction score
48
The MBTA has $694M in fares in its 2020 budget. Advertising is $30M, parking is $45M, and real estate is $22M. They'd be foregoing 86% of their operating revenue and 33% of the revenue in their operating budget (the lion's share of the rest comes from dedicated sales tax).

The only way you can make transit free is by levying a big tax on people who don't use transit (or live in the MBTA service area), even more than we already do.
sounds good to me. Gas tax, congestion tax, uber/lyft tax, private sector funding.
gas tax has increased 3% since 1991
T fares have increased 300%.
Time to flip that on it's head.
better for the economy and the environment.
 

George_Apley

Not a Brahmin
Staff member
Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
4,357
Reaction score
719
sounds good to me. Gas tax, congestion tax, uber/lyft tax, private sector funding.
gas tax has increased 3% since 1991
T fares have increased 300%.
Time to flip that on it's head.
better for the economy and the environment.
Unfortunately, that would never be politically tenable. The legislature will never throw suburbanites under the bus (pun intended) to "bailout" public transit riders. And the pols would be right, because they'd find themselves voted out of office lickity-split.

The free bus idea... maybe. Freeing up the entire system? Whether or not it's a good policy (maybe it is), it's suicidal politics.
 

Equilibria

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2007
Messages
4,465
Reaction score
797
sounds good to me. Gas tax, congestion tax, uber/lyft tax, private sector funding.
gas tax has increased 3% since 1991
T fares have increased 300%.
Time to flip that on it's head.
better for the economy and the environment.
A lot of T riders can afford way more than they pay for the T. If the argument for transit is that it's a regional imperative to keep the economy humming, then the people who make all the money at those humming urban employment hubs should be willing to pay for it, rather than asking a driver in Winchendon to do it.

The gas tax needs revision/replacement that involves raising fees for drivers as well, but yuppies that can afford $200 for a monthly pass should be paying it.
 

Ruairi

Active Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
Messages
317
Reaction score
48
Free fares is a terrible idea for a system like the MBTA. An old system falling apart needs all the money it can get so why subsidize riders more? I'm liberal but this always sounded like some whiny liberal handout bullshit by people who thing everything is free.
it's not free. Everybody pays for it. Just like the roads.

Look, maybe free is unrealistic but as far as I see it, if you push for free, you might get free for those over 65 and students, or maybe even means tested tickets, or one anual ticket that costs $365.
There needs to be more incentive to get people out of their cars and we cant wait till there is funding to fix all the issues while keeping the fares where they are.
 

KCasiglio

New member
Joined
Oct 19, 2019
Messages
37
Reaction score
43
Free buses seems to really make sense. If most riders are transfering to a subway line then revenue loss is comparatively minimal and probably worth the improvement in service from faster/all door boarding.
 

millerm277

Active Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
235
Reaction score
45
What people do today is not necessarily going to be the same once they have a financial incentive to act differently.

I imagine that it'll lead to a lot of non-optimal mode shifting, where you've got people loading up other bus routes to avoid making the subway transfers the system was intended to make.

Ex: Chelsea. The 111 (to Haymarket) is straining at the seams even with some of the densest service on the entire system.

The 116/117 are also very high ridership and go to Maverick for a Blue Line transfer to get downtown.

What happens when taking the 111 becomes a free way to get downtown and taking the 116/117 costs you $90/month? I'll bet you see lots of people switching to the 111 even if the 116/117 -> Maverick would be a more optimal commute in terms of time and system utilization to get to their destination.

You can probably find plenty of other example trips on the system that are potentially going to see similar issues. Kiss those attempts at building ridership on the Fairmount Line goodbye, for example. Not many people are going to ride it when the bus is free, even though rail is exactly what we want them to be using for that trip.
 

George_Apley

Not a Brahmin
Staff member
Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
4,357
Reaction score
719
What people do today is not necessarily going to be the same once they have a financial incentive to act differently.

I imagine that it'll lead to a lot of non-optimal mode shifting, where you've got people loading up other bus routes to avoid making the subway transfers the system was intended to make.

Ex: Chelsea. The 111 (to Haymarket) is straining at the seams even with some of the densest service on the entire system.

The 116/117 are also very high ridership and go to Maverick for a Blue Line transfer to get downtown.

What happens when taking the 111 becomes a free way to get downtown and taking the 116/117 costs you $90/month? I'll bet you see lots of people switching to the 111 even if the 116/117 -> Maverick would be a more optimal commute in terms of time and system utilization to get to their destination.

You can probably find plenty of other example trips on the system that are potentially going to see similar issues. Kiss those attempts at building ridership on the Fairmount Line goodbye, for example. Not many people are going to ride it when the bus is free, even though rail is exactly what we want them to be using for that trip.
Good post. That said, this doesn't mean that making buses free is a bad idea, it just means that the existing bus system would need to be tweaked (and paired with rapid transit expansion) in order for the scheme to work. Ideally, under a "free bus, but pay for rail" regime, downtown bus routes would either need to be shifted elsewhere or all be pay-for-service. The 39 is another example of a free bus that would cannibalize rapid transit.

Taking your Chelsea example, that's an example of a city that's aching from a lack of real transit access. Give it to them. Whether it's the (relatively easy) GLX from Lechmere to Chelsea Bridge using the Eastern Route or a (much crazier) GLX from North Station along the Charlestown waterfront over/under the Mystic... this neighborhood desperately needs better transit. Anyway, that's crazy talk, but my point is that the Chelsea bus system is broken now and it would be broken under a different fare regime. What makes it broken is the paucity of appropriate transit in the neighborhood.

Same goes for Roxbury/Dorchester. The buses would need to be recalibrated and paired with improvements on Fairmount to feed the line, rather than cannibalize it.

So your point is well taken, that "free buses, yay!" couldn't be done willy-nilly, it would need to be in a thoughtful and deliberate way to avoid negative side-effects and be paired with less simple solutions, such as transit expansion.
 

Equilibria

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2007
Messages
4,465
Reaction score
797
So your point is well taken, that "free buses, yay!" couldn't be done willy-nilly, it would need to be in a thoughtful and deliberate way to avoid negative side-effects and be paired with less simple solutions, such as transit expansion.
Not that I disagree in principle, but politically, good luck with that. Either all the bus routes are free or none of them are. The public won't let you be selective.
 

George_Apley

Not a Brahmin
Staff member
Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
4,357
Reaction score
719
Not that I disagree in principle, but politically, good luck with that. Either all the bus routes are free or none of them are. The public won't let you be selective.
If all downtown routes become "express" or "BRT" or some other form of enhanced service then that's the dividing line.
 

fattony

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2013
Messages
1,953
Reaction score
109
If all downtown routes become "express" or "BRT" or some other form of enhanced service then that's the dividing line.
I think finding a scheme for making the bus (broadly) free is a good idea and I think this notion is a good mitigation for the concerns millerm outlined. Those certain few routes that would get pounded even harder if the bus were free should get upgraded to some sort of higher service status and can charge a fare. A few outliers is no reason that the typical subway feeders and local bus routes shouldn't get the ridership and ops boost from zero fare. There will need to be changes to the network to accomodate the change in fare policy.

And if it truly proves politically unfeasible to charge for some routes and not others, then those overcrowded routes are going to find some sort of new equilibrium. You won't have hundreds of people lined up for hours to take the free bus to avoid a $2 fare, at some point the marginal cases will choose to pay the fare. Even if people did hold out and wait for the free bus, that is a problem that can be solved with more buses. What a wonderful problem to have - everyone is fighting over who gets to take the bus! I don't think we are ever going to have a problem where the subway empties out for people to crowd into buses like sardines. I believe most daily commuters by far have a monthly pass anyway, so all those folks are immune to the lure of the free bus.

There are only a very limited number of areas on a small number of routes that would need any mitigation.
 

HenryAlan

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2009
Messages
2,310
Reaction score
297
Free fares is a terrible idea for a system like the MBTA. An old system falling apart needs all the money it can get so why subsidize riders more? I'm liberal but this always sounded like some whiny liberal handout bullshit by people who thing everything is free.
Studies have consistently shown that even low income riders don't rank lower/free fares as the top priority. Like everybody else, they prefer better service over free service. I would be interested in studying further the idea of free buses, but I definitely don't think free fares in general makes much sense when so many obvious service deficiencies are waiting for solutions.
 

Equilibria

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2007
Messages
4,465
Reaction score
797
If all downtown routes become "express" or "BRT" or some other form of enhanced service then that's the dividing line.
I want to believe that would work but I've seen too much bus route parochialism to believe it would. Downtown BRT routes aren't located in disadvantaged communities.
 

George_Apley

Not a Brahmin
Staff member
Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
4,357
Reaction score
719
I want to believe that would work but I've seen too much bus route parochialism to believe it would. Downtown BRT routes aren't located in disadvantaged communities.
Maybe so, but that argument can be made about restructuring routes as well as fares. We need some major rerouting work even under the current payment system. To your second point, we'd have to make some using enforced bus lanes.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
4,684
Reaction score
148
Not that I disagree in principle, but politically, good luck with that. Either all the bus routes are free or none of them are. The public won't let you be selective.
I disagree, since it wouldn't be arbitrary. I think people understand the difference between a feeder bus route and a "unique" bus route. Same way now people are ok paying extra for the express buses. I also havent heard anyone complain that the Silver Line is free at the airport. People understand that it's free as a way to speed up service. This is true even though those riders are getting a free transfer to the red line.

The 66 is another example of a "unique" bus in that many of the trips done do not involve trains because the route has no train service. Pair it with bus lanes and priority, and I think people would be ok paying for that line, while others are free. Of course, folks who DO transfer would still get a free transfer to rail.
 

ceo

Active Member
Joined
May 4, 2009
Messages
259
Reaction score
98
I'm wondering how the new Green Line stations will work if AFC2.0 isn't implemented yet when they open. It was the reason they were able to redesign the stations to be much simpler, with no fare gates.
 

JumboBuc

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2013
Messages
2,139
Reaction score
204
I'm wondering how the new Green Line stations will work if AFC2.0 isn't implemented yet when they open. It was the reason they were able to redesign the stations to be much simpler, with no fare gates.
Since the GLX platforms are grade-separated from the street due to the tracks being in a trench, most (all?) of the stations only have one or two access points anyway. Adding fare gates should be a breeze.

Tying AFC2.0 and the GLX together never made any sense to begin with.
 

JeffDowntown

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2007
Messages
3,030
Reaction score
202
Since the GLX platforms are grade-separated from the street due to the tracks being in a trench, most (all?) of the stations only have one or two access points anyway. Adding fare gates should be a breeze.

Tying AFC2.0 and the GLX together never made any sense to begin with.
IIRC I don't think it is that simple.

Part of the major cost reduction strategy for the GLX stations, was to eliminate consolidated fare lobbies. This removed constraints on placement of elevators, versus stairs, which was driving cost. Without fare lobbies (mezzanine levels), I believe (could be wrong) many stations do not have logical locations for fare gates that capture both stairs and elevator access. Also, I believe more fare gates might be needed to service both platforms/directions ($). Also there is a need for fare vending machines -- in front of the fare gates.
 

elemenoh

Active Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2013
Messages
271
Reaction score
9
I've been curious whether anyone knows if the other regional transit authorities are planning to change their fare boxes when the MBTA does. It's incredibly convenient right now to be able to use a Charlie Card on the CCRTA buses here on Cape Cod.
 

guitarguynboston

New member
Joined
Dec 11, 2009
Messages
95
Reaction score
92
I've been curious whether anyone knows if the other regional transit authorities are planning to change their fare boxes when the MBTA does. It's incredibly convenient right now to be able to use a Charlie Card on the CCRTA buses here on Cape Cod.
Yeah it's pretty convenient to use a Charlie Card on the MRTA buses out here in N Central Ma even though the MRTA buses themselves aren't convenient at all.
 

Top