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Reduced fares for the T idea receives boost from New York City

Gotham decided to provide half-priced MetroCards to less affluent New Yorkers—can it work here?

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New York City’s recent decision to underwrite the cost of providing half-price mass-transit passes to New Yorkers living below the federal poverty line has spurred some in the Boston area to renew their push for a similar break for the T.

New York’s mayor and City Council added the underwriting as part of New York’s budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. The half-priced MetroCards—that’s their CharlieCard equivalent—are expected to be available in January 2019. The program is expected to cost the city $106 million during its first six months.

Leaving aside the numbers because the New York area and its mass transit system are so much larger than the Boston area and its mass transit system, could something like that work here? According to a report from the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro, plenty of people think so—and they’re seizing on New York’s move.

On Thursday, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that as the T installs new fare technology in 2020, it will review how discounts could affect ridership and revenue.

Activists feel emboldened by a recent agreement in principle in New York City to subsidize fares for as many as 800,000 residents who live below the poverty line.

The big question, of course, is who or what will pay for any subsidization. In New York, it was taxpayer monies tied to the overall city budget, with the initial allotment just through mid-2019 (when another round of budgetary negotiations may or may not produce more money for the half-priced fares).

In the Boston area, theories as to who or what might pay are very few and far between. Some are talking about raising fares on other riders, some about capping monthly costs for those who can’t afford monthly CharlieCards upfront.

Meanwhile, plans to institute that tap-and-go fare technology by 2020 continue apace. Stay tuned.