Is the MBTA offering a free ride for some?

Green Line back doors were open Sunday afternoon, despite the MBTA's new policy that they must remain closed during off-peak hours, holidays and weekends.
COURTNEY SACCO/METRO

It’s an unspoken truth that pretty girls and smooth talkers are occasionally treated to a little “on the house” action. It happens at restaurants, where free drinks are practically a currency, and if your pal works at the local cinema, you’re probably seeing that movie for free.

But for a struggling public transit system, when every dollar counts, it would be hard to justify looking the other way when people don’t want to pay.

“The MBTA doesn’t care about collecting fares,” said a man who goes by Jack Ryan, and claims to be married to a T worker.

His wife, Ryan said, is “flabbergasted at what the T says and what it actually does.”

Additionally, “Most stations go unmanned,” Ryan said. “Talk about total loss of revenue.”

While the MBTA has been outspoken on its stance of cracking down on fare dodgers – on July 1 the penalty went up to $50 for the first offense – Twitter is abuzz with posts by gleeful riders who boast that they don’t have to pay.

“Shout out to the MBTA worker who gave me a free T pass this morning,” @Dondo_9 recently tweeted.

While some rejoice about the free rides, others are not so impressed with workers.

“Just asked a #MBTA staff if I could pay commuter rail fare w/card. He said they’d probably let me on for free. #MBTABudget #fail,” tweeted @retroandi last week.

Regardless, the transit agency insists there is no internal problem with workers handing out free rides or looking the other way when people want to skip fare.

“The authority takes fare evasion extremely seriously,” said MBTA Spokesman Joshua Robin, who said no employees have been disciplined this year for failing to enforce fare payment.

“Any employee found to be assisting customers in evading fares would be subject to disciplinary action under the MBTA’s progressive discipline policy,” Robin said. “But our employees are certainly not the issue.”

T officials estimate that system-wide fare evasion accounts for less than 1.5 percent of all boarding, representing roughly $5 to $7 million in revenue each year.

In 2011, the MBTA handed out 3,481 citations to fare dodgers, bringing in roughly $36,445
Since January, the agency has handed out 2,577 citations. Because of the increase in fines, the MBTA has pulled in $39,548.

“We are on track to beat last year’s numbers,” Robin said.

T officials estimate that fare evasion system wide accounts for less than 1.5 % of all boarding, representing roughly $5 to $7 million in revenue each year

To help cut back on people hopping free rides, the T implemented a front-door only boarding policy for customers at above-ground stations on the Green Line’s during weekends, holidays, and off-peak hours.

The policy was implemented beginning in January of this year on the E line and expanded to all other lines by mid–April, but Metro cameras caught some drivers opening the back doors Sunday.

[View the story "Come one, come all!" on Storify]


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