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T’s all-electronic fare collection could impact less affluent, immigrants most

Cash vs. cashless

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The MBTA’s plan to switch to a London-style, all-electronic fare-collection system over the next few years could leave behind that sliver of ridership that predominantly uses cash to pay for trips.

What’s more, less affluent Boston-area residents, including immigrants, represent the bulk of that share. Per Katheleen Conti in the Globe:

Overall, only 7 percent of MBTA bus and trolley riders pay with cash, but many are low-income and immigrants, who, for a variety of reasons, do not or cannot have a bank account or a credit card, said Kimberly Barzola, an organizer for the T Riders Union, an advocacy group.

Additionally, while the MBTA does plan to install vending machines at bus stops that riders can use to load up a new version of the CharlieCard, not every bus stop will have such a machine. Therefore, cash-reliant riders may not always and reliably be able to turn their bills and coins into electronic fares.

The MBTA is going to try to mitigate this impact through free cards for lower-income riders as well as through making cash-to-digital conversions as omnipresent as possible, including through increasing the number of retailers that can issue transit passes.

The all-electronic fare system is supposed to be in place by 2020. Stay tuned.