Community, Environmental, Labor Allies Demand Reduced Fare Option for Low-Income Riders

Equitable fare structure would encourage ridership, promote economic opportunity, and remove the MBTA as an obstacle to economic mobility

BOSTON, MA — In the midst of a crisis that has rendered the public transit system they depend on completely unreliable, a coalition of groups representing the interests of workers, environmental groups, and allies called on the MBTA’s Fiscal & Management Control Board (FMCB) to enact a discounted fare structure for low-income people.

Currently, increasing costs combined with the current unreliability of the MBTA have made the system an obstacle, rather than a vehicle of economic mobility. A low-income fare would be a first step towards creating equity in a system of transportation that has failed those who need it most.

“The MBTA is in a crisis,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Director of Community Labor United. “We’ve seen how the T’s failures to operate a reliable system have disrupted families, workers, and the entire economy of the region. This hurts low-income people most of all.”

To remedy this, Community Labor United, the Green Justice Coalition, and allied groups are proposing:

  • A permanent reduced-fare program for those who are registered in a public benefit program, and include those who are at 300 percent of the federal poverty level or below (for instance, 300 percent of the federal poverty level is equivalent to about $64,000 a year for a family of three)
  • A cost of $30 a month (in line with the MBTA youth pass)
  • Automatic enrollment of trusted community groups and job programs that have economically vulnerable members, like BEST Hospitality Training and other pre-apprenticeship programs.

Community Labor United points to MIT research that shows: When given access to a 50 percent reduced fare rate, low-income riders, as compared to others who used non-subsidized CharlieCards, took 30 percent more trips and significantly more trips to health care providers.

“I need an affordable option that I can depend on to get me to and from my job on time,” said Naomi Rodriguez of Chelsea. “Despite spending more and more on fares, I still can’t rely on the T. And when a train breaks down, I can’t afford to take a Lyft or an Uber to get to work on time. It’s time to invest in the T and make it affordable for low-income people who need it the most.”

Allies pointed to Governor Baker’s failed policy of “reforming” the T before giving it more revenue, a strategy he took on following the disastrous winter of 2014-2015. In the calm of summer, recent derailments and breakdowns have proven that the MBTA is not reformed, despite fare hikes in 2014, 2016, and 2019.

“The Machinists and other MBTA workers have already done our part to identify millions of dollars in savings,” said Mike Vartabedian, Directing Business Representative for Machinists Union Local 264. “It’s time to enact a low-income fare that will make the MBTA affordable for all and put the ‘public’ back in public transportation.”

In order to build a strong economy, Massachusetts needs a transit system that works for all.

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