MBTA Board Approves Low-Income Fare Program To Benefit Riders In 170+ Communities

Building upon the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s FY24 budget that includes $5 million for the MBTA to develop a low-income fares program, the MBTA announced March 28th that the MBTA Board of Directors has unanimously approved the MBTA’s plan to implement a reduced fares program for riders with low-income. In addition to the low-income fare program, the Board also approved two smaller changes.

The new program will provide riders who are aged 26-64, non-disabled, and have low income with reduced fares of approximately 50% off on all MBTA modes. Program participants will demonstrate eligibility via existing enrollment in programs with a cutoff of 200% of the federal poverty level (or lower).

The new program also applies on the Commuter Rail, unlocking affordability for residents along those corridors and in the Gateway Cities. On the RIDE, the MBTA’s paratransit service, senior and low-income riders will be eligible for half price ADA and Premium trips.

“Expanding low-income fares will help to ensure that our transportation system is more equitable and more affordable, which supports the mission to give everyone greater access to mobility options, especially community members depending on transit,”said Transportation Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt.

“This is an important step towards making mass transportation more affordable for those that need it the most and I thank the Board of Directors for their support and approval of the new low-income fare program, especially MassDOT Secretary Tibbits-Nutt for her years of advocacy. I applaud the Governor and the Legislature for their foresight to include funds in our FY24 budget to enable us to develop this program, and we thank the Governor for her proposal in the FY25 budget in support of this program, which will benefit so many across all modes,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “The MBTA is committed to making meaningful improvements for riders, including making fares more affordable, which will improve quality of life, boost economic mobility, and encourage more riders to return to the system.”

 The fare changes will go into effect in summer 2024.

 The MBTA estimates the cost of the program to be approximately $52-62 million (including administrative costs, operating costs to meet induced demand, and fare revenue loss). According to prior research, riders with low income are expected to take 30% more trips with a reduced fare, significantly increasing mobility while saving on transportation costs. More than 60,000 riders are expected to qualify for and enroll in the program, which is expected to result in up to 8 million more trips per year.

 The program for riders with low income is a multi-secretariat effort with the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). Existing MBTA reduced fare programs already provide support to students, seniors, riders with disabilities, and young people aged 18-25 with low income. These programs provide half-priced fares and passes. 

 To make the program further accessible throughout Massachusetts communities, the MBTA will partner with third-party Community-Based Partners to manage in-person customer service and eligibility verification. These efforts include providing physical in-person locations where people can receive support with their applications and offering additional support whenever automatic systems are unable to successfully process applications.

 Two additional fare changes include: 

Replacing “Change Tickets” with CharlieCards: As of March 1, 2024, the issuance of paper CharlieTickets with stored value as change (a “Change Ticket”) was phased out. This is due to limitations in the fare collection technology. Riders are encouraged to load stored value on plastic CharlieCards. 

Permanently expanding the $10 Weekend Commuter Rail Pass to include federal holidays: The $10 Weekend Commuter Rail Pass will now include federal holidays. This pass allows for unlimited Commuter Rail trips on all three days of federal holiday weekends. For federal holidays that are observed mid-week, passengers can purchase a $10 Holiday Pass for that day. 

For more information, visit mbta.com/2024FareChanges or connect with the T on X (the site formerly known as Twitter) @MBTA and @MBTA_CR, Facebook /TheMBTA, Instagram @theMBTA, Threads @thembta, or TikTok @thembta. 

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