Commuter Rail riders be warned, daily random ticket checks are now in the works.
The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services, operating company of the Commuter Rail, began a “Fare is Fair” initiative on Tuesday as an attempt to crack down on fare evasions, which lead to millions of dollars lost each year, officials said.
Fare is Fair “events,” which are random ticket checks, are not completely new. Previously, these checks happened about six to eight times per year, Keolis said.
Now, random ticket checks will be a daily occurrence.
“Making Fare is Fair ticket checks a daily occurrence is an important part of our efforts to modernize commuter rail ticketing and bring best practices to the network,” David Scorey, CEO and general manager of Keolis, said in a statement.
“Similar passenger rail systems in the United States and in cities around the world utilize a variety of strategies, including events such as these, to educate passengers on ticketing options and reduce fare evasion,” he added. “Our intention is to incorporate many of these practices in a way that is effective in Boston.”
Ticket checks will occur at stations throughout the Commuter Rail network, beginning with off-peak times. As commuters become more aware of the practice, Keolis said, checks will happen at peak commute times.
North Station is the first to see the new initiative, with ticket checks occurring mid-day on Tuesday and Wednesday. Checks will then take place at Back Bay Station mid-day on Thursday and at South Station mid-day on Friday.
“Future schedules will be made available as appropriate,” the company said in a statement.
Boarding a Commuter Rail train doesn’t require tapping your Charlie Card like when getting on the T. Riders can instead purchase passes based on zones that correlate with their commute, load trips onto CharlieTickets, purchase trips through the mTicket App or pay with cash on board.
These methods require train coaches to visibly check or hole punch tickets, but when coaches are crowded, conductors can’t check all the tickets, according to Keolis. That means many passengers don’t have to activate their app ticket, have their paper ticket punched or pay with cash while on board.
Officials say the Fare is Fair ticket checks will happen before passengers board. Keolis said that trains will not be held while passengers’ tickets are checked, “but Fare is Fair staff will ensure lines are minimized to ensure passengers make their scheduled trains.”
The millions in fares that are lost when passengers don’t pay for a ticket is money that could be invested into “critical network, fleet and service improvements,” Scorey said.
More modern efforts are coming soon, he added. Keolis is currently designing plans to incorporate ticketing-checking gates at its three major stations (North Station, South Station and Back Bay Station) as well as transition to onboard ticket scanners.
The MBTA’s Commuter Rail is the fifth largest commuter rail operation in North America, according to Keolis. It carries about 127,000 passengers every day to 138 stations over 394 miles.