As debate continues on hiking fares for riders, MBTA board members Monday pushed for tying fare prices to users’ ability to pay.
The board added means-tested ticket costs as a priority, but not a guarantee, to a draft of a fare policy, the latest step toward increasing fares in 2016 as the board seeks to close a budget deficit.
“If there is a group of citizens who rightfully should pay less because they can’t afford it, then the money is going to have to come from someplace,” said board member Brian Lang. “I unequivocally say we should have means-testing and we should figure out how to make it happen.”
Board member Steve Poftak, meanwhile, said he was “less confident” in that goal until he could see how realistic it would be and much it would cost.
Right now, only seniors and students receive discounted fares, regardless of their income, which is required by state law. Riders with disabilities also pay discounted rates.
The T is currently running pilots of discounts for low-income users of the Ride and young people using Youth Passes, which Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said could provide a better sense of what a more broad discount might look like.
Lang also argued for better technology to collect fares, which would allow the service to charge variable rates, for example raising and lowering rates on certain tracks or at certain times of day.
The board also considered whether to increase the cost of monthly passes for the T and by how much. Pass holders break even after about 35.7 trips on the T. By comparison, the number is 42.4 trips on public transit in New York and 44.4 trips in Chicago, according to a report.
The T plans to release the draft policy to the public on Tuesday and hold a public comment period until Dec. 15 ahead of a Dec. 21 vote on the policy. A final vote on increasing fares isn’t scheduled to happen until February, 2016, following public meetings to be held through January.