The MBTA this week announced updates to current fare pilots that include an extension of the Five-day Flex Pass on mTicket, as well as upcoming fare change proposals that include improvements to the Youth Pass and converting all Outer Express Bus Routes to Inner Express Bus fares. These changes help to improve reduced fare programs and simplify complex fares for both customers and operations.
“We’re pleased to temporarily extend the availability of the Five-day Flex Pass, which has been a popular fare option for our Commuter Rail riders as travel patterns have adjusted and evolved during the pandemic,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “We’re also excited about our upcoming fare proposals that make improvements to the Youth Pass and Express Bus Route fares. If approved by the FMCB next month, these proposals – converting all Outer Express Bus Routes to the lower Inner Express Bus fare, and providing Youth Pass users with reduced fares on Commuter Rail, Express Bus, and ferries – will allow the MBTA to continue to meet the needs of riders through incremental fare improvements that matter now more than ever as we enter the ‘new normal’.”
Fare Pilot Updates
MBTA staff announced that the Five-day Flex Pass will be extended, the Lynn Zone 1A Fare Pilot will end on June 30, as previously planned, and Quincy Center Station’s Zone 1A fare designation will end June 30:
•Five-day Flex Pass: An attractive option for riders with in-person work schedules limited by the pandemic, the Five-day Flex Pass has continued to serve Commuter Rail riders with over 5,600 passes sold through March 2021. The Five-day Flex Pass will continue to be available on mTicket for 90 days following the end of the Commonwealth’s state of emergency.
•Lynn Zone 1A Fare Pilot: Zone 1A fares were piloted in Lynn to relieve crowding on nearby buses and improve social distancing and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on ridership data and surveys of Lynn riders, it was found that the Lynn Zone 1A Fare Pilot has not reduced crowding on nearby bus routes. As a result, this fare pilot will end June 30, as previously announced with Lynn Station returning to a Zone 2 fare beginning July 1.
•Quincy Center Zone 1A mitigation: Zone 1A fares were temporarily accepted at Quincy Center Station in order to mitigate Red Line service impacts during both the closure of Wollaston Station and North Quincy Garage Development construction. Wollaston was reopened in August 2019, surface parking currently provides sufficient access to North Quincy, and the North Quincy Garage is anticipated to open later in 2021. As a result, Quincy Center Station’s Zone 1A fare designation will end June 30, 2021, with Quincy Center returning to a Zone 1 fare beginning July 1.
Proposed Fare Changes
MBTA Fare Transformation staff presented two fare change proposals to be voted on by the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) on May 10, 2021, that aim to benefit nearly 2,200 current Youth Pass participants (about 4,600 pre-pandemic) and to simplify Express Bus fares:
•The Youth Pass Program is a partnership between the MBTA and participating cities and towns that offers young adults with low incomes roughly 50-percent reduced one-way fares or $30 monthly LinkPasses on the bus and subway. MBTA staff have proposed that the Youth Pass also be valid for reduced fares on Commuter Rail, Express Bus, and ferries. Youth Pass holders are already able to purchase half-price Commuter Rail tickets through a reduced fare pilot that ends on June 30. This proposed fare change, if approved by the FMCB, would make the Youth Pass Commuter Rail pilot a permanent policy and also provide reduced Express Bus and ferry fares effective July 1, 2021.
•MBTA staff also proposed converting all Outer Express Bus Routes ($5.25 per trip) to Inner Bus fares ($4.25 per trip) effective July 1. Maintaining a separate fare for a small number of Outer Express Bus Routes has become unnecessarily complicated for riders and bus operators. Due to service changes as a result of the pandemic, the MBTA is currently operating only a single Outer Express route (352/354), which is most recently serving about 100 Outer Express rides per day. The route also serves an Inner Express stop and requires a complicated procedure to avoid overcharging customers. As a result, if approved by the FMCB in May, the MBTA has proposed converting fares for Express Route 352/354 as well as any future Express Bus Routes to the Inner Express fare of $4.25 beginning July 1.
The public is able to comment on these proposed changes at mbta.com/2021FareChanges. The Title VI analysis will be shared with FMCB and posted to mbta.com by April 26.