Elected Officials and Transit Advocates Call for Suspending Fares for All MBTA Riders

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

Elected officials, advocates, and riders are calling for suspending fare collection across the entire MBTA system during the month-long shutdowns of the Orange Line (beginning August 19) and the Green Line north of Government Center (beginning August 22).

New data released shows that, excluding already free bus routes,137,056 daily bus trips are taken on routes that connect to the Orange Line – meaning tens of thousands of people who rely on buses to connect to the Orange Line will pay an MBTA fare before connecting to a free shuttle service. Additionally, thousands of bus riders who may not be making a connection to a shuttle will still bear the brunt of increased congestion in the region. 

To respond to the significant negative impacts the shutdowns will have on these and all MBTA riders, and to continue to promote transit use over driving, riders, advocates and elected officials are calling for suspending fares across all rapid transit lines, all bus lines, and all commuter rail lines and zones through the duration of the shutdown. The MBTA’s current plan offers free rides only on Orange Line shuttle buses, as well as allowing riders to pay for trips on commuter rail lines within Zones 1A, 1, and 2 by showing their CharlieCard or CharlieTicket.

A suspension of all fares, coupled with implementing rapid bus lanes and a more accessible commuter rail service, would respond equitably to the needs of all transit riders and ensure more people continue to use the system rather than drive during the shutdowns.

“The Orange Line serves as a crucial economic, social, and community link for students and working families in Massachusetts, including for many lower-income communities and communities of color throughout Greater Boston. They will bear the brunt of this devastating shutdown, but they shouldn’t be forced to carry the financial costs as well. Fare-free transit is a common-sense step to lessen the burden on commuters and ensure the T puts public transit riders first.” – Senator Ed Markey

“Due to decades of underinvestment and mismanagement of the MBTA, our constituents find themselves in an untenable situation. We should not have to choose between safety and service. Riders should not have to bear the burden of these disruptive shutdowns, which we know will hit our most vulnerable commuters hardest. Making the T free during these shutdowns would reduce the financial impact on riders and lower families’ costs during a time of inflation, while also promoting connectivity, accessibility, sustainability, and addressing the transit gaps that have deepened the racial and economic disparities in our communities. I thank Senator Markey for his close partnership in this effort and to our advocates and local partners for keeping up the pressure.” – Representative Ayanna Pressley

“Bus riders who rely on a connection to the Orange Line are facing an extraordinary burden during the shutdown. We know that fare free buses are faster and more reliable, and eliminating fares across the system during this period will give time and money back to the people who are most impacted by this disruption.” – Boston Mayor Michelle Wu

“During these unprecedented closures, MBTA riders deserve unprecedented support.  Somerville residents will be doubly burdened with both the Orange and Green Line closures, and for many, access to jobs, school, health care, and other essential services will be at risk. Suspending fares systemwide is not only the equitable thing to do – it’s good policy that will keep more users on public transit during the next month and beyond.” – Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne

“The shutdown demonstrates the extreme importance of public transportation for everyone: riders, drivers, cyclists, businesses, the economy, and our air and climate.  Recent disasters have steeply eroded confidence in the system, but we need to rebuild ridership for everyone’s benefit.  Free fares for everyone will help with that.  Free fares will signal gratitude and an apology to those riders who have stuck with public transportation through multiple disasters, many of whom have no real alternative.” – State Senator Pat Jehlen

“Safe, reliable and affordable public transportation is critical to connect our communities, and the Orange and Green Line diversions will have serious impacts on my constituents. I am concerned that the needs of those who rely most on public transportation, for whom working from home or being late for work are not options, are not being considered. Making the system fare free during this shutdown is one critical way to address the financial impact of this closure.” – State Representative Christine Barber

“The Orange and Green Line shutdown will result in lost wages and missed medical appointments, further exacerbating the health disparities of low-income communities that were hit hardest during the pandemic like Chelsea and East Boston and who are reliant on public transportation. A full fare suspension will give essential workers and low-income families a fighting chance to thrive during this transit emergency.” – GreenRoots Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power

“Riders along the Fairmont corridor, especially in Dorchester and Mattapan, use the bus system to connect with the Orange Line to bring them into downtown. The idea that they will have to figure out a very unclear system of payment when having to deal with significantly longer travel times and transfers is shameful – the MBTA needs to prioritize riders by giving the free fares and transparency on the process ahead.”- Action 4 Equity Transit Organizer Mea Johnson 

“The T is essential to our work. I take the Orange Line frequently for our environmental justice presentations, connecting with youth leaders in Greater Boston and to accompany my grandmother for her needs in the city. A suspension of fares will make it a lot easier for young people to commute outside of Chelsea.” – Darien Rodriguez, GreenRoots ECO Youth Crew Member, 15 years old 

“The month-long shutdown of the Orange and Green Lines is expected to have a severe impact on mobility in Greater Boston and increase traffic congestion throughout the region. Left unabated, this will be disruptive to riders, the economy, and the business community. Suspending fares across the MBTA system will help encourage public transit use and address serious equity issues for the many bus riders who are set to pay for service before connecting to a free shuttle bus. The legislature approved $266 million in this year’s state budget to address the safety repairs recommended by the FTA, so there is funding available to support this initiative. Using this money to support riders and this region during these shutdowns is a wise use of these funds at this critical time.” – A Better City President & CEO Rick Dimino

“Suspending fares systemwide makes sense in a crisis situation like the one that we’re facing today. The current suspension of fares for commuter rail riders in Zones 1, 1A, and 2 does not go far enough if the goal of authority is the reduction of traffic in the diversion zone. Full fare suspension on all modes will help convince more people to take the train, bus, or ferry instead of their car, and will reduce congestion both for Orange Line shuttles and for those who have no choice but to drive.” – TransitMatters Programs Manager Matthew Petersen

“Given the enormous economic impact the shutdown will have on the region, systemwide fares suspension is an investment in keeping people – and the economy – moving for the next month. The Commonwealth’s historic revenue surplus, in addition to unexpended ARPA funds and the additional funds the legislature allocated to the MBTA to address the FTA recommendation, offer more than enough resources to fill any revenue shortfall that may occur as a result of a system-wide fares suspension.” – LivableStreets Executive Director Stacy Thompson

“While the need to take drastic steps to improve the safety and reliability of our public transportation system is understood, this move must be met with a sincere effort to reduce the negative impacts on all who rely on the system. The reality is many riders will feel compelled to turn to private vehicles to get where they need to go, which will impact countless bus riders who will sit in worsened traffic. A suspension of fares is not only the just action to take, but can serve as an incentive for Orange and Green Line riders to use the commuter rail rather than driving.” – Transportation for Massachusetts Interim Executive Director Josh Ostroff   

**The group utilized the MBTA COVID Recovery Dashboard developed by TransitMatters, which is based on MBTA ridership data.

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