Coalition Calls for Swift Action on Low-Income Fares

In the wake of the failure by the MBTA board to create a Low-Income Fare for MBTA riders, a popular proposal that garnered overwhelming support in public testimony, the Public Transit Public Good Coalition calls for swift action on providing a Low-Income Fare for MBTA riders.

Despite long-standing calls from environmental justice communities, labor groups and others for a low-income fare, the MBTA has refused to advance the Low-Income Fare program, citing budgetary constraints. The Public Transit Public Good Coalition calls on the MBTA to use a portion of the $500 million it recently reallocated for use on a range of one-time uses to fund a low-income fare pilot. We estimate a year-long pilot would cost $42 million dollars.

“The idea of a Low-Income Fare began for a simple reason: folks were struggling to pay the cost of riding,” said Collique Williams, an organizer with Public Transit Public Good Coalition, convened by Community Labor United, in his testimony to the Board. “The fare had gone up in 2012, in 2014, in 2016, and in 2019. People needed some help to pay the fare and some assurance that the spiraling costs would not continue. Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit, bringing new economic hardships and health risks. The power to bring riders relief lies here with this body.”

“We know that T can afford a Low-Income Fare and it’s a matter of will to support the low-income riders who have been carrying the burden of T funding. We know that this board can make it happen,” said Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association, a member of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition, in her testimony to the Board. 

While delaying action on a low-income fare, the MBTA is rushing to a decision on a new $3 fee on the Charlie Card. The proposed surcharge is part of a move to the controversial, expensive, and much-delayed ‘automated fare collection’ system outsourced to billionaire corporations Cubic and John Laing. The MBTA is set to pay close to a billion dollars, including $288 million in profit and overhead, for this privatized fare collection system. 

“MBTA staff could not answer Board Chair Taylor’s question as to when the new fare collection technology is expected to come online,” said Williams. “Before deciding to impose new fees on riders, the MBTA should re-examine its fare collection contract, and adopt a Low-Income Fare that would save low-income people millions. We also call on the Massachusetts Legislature to advance legislation that would create a Low-Income Fare at the MBTA and provide assistance to RTAs to do the same.” 

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