This post floats a proposal for across-the-board transit fare cuts funded by tax increases. My considered bottom line about the proposal appears further below. Click here to jump to the bottom line.


Is now the time to sharply cut transit fares in Massachusetts? T fares have risen much faster than inflation, more than doubling since 2003.

Lower fares would result in more riders. More riders means less cars on the road which is good for everyone. Transit already carries a big share of the traffic on the most common routes into the core of the Boston area — approximately 40% region-wide. Even a small shift to transit could make a big difference in congestion.

I’m not suggesting that the MBTA and other transit authorities should run with less money. We are in the middle of a sustained effort to provide better quality transit service and that costs money.

Statewide, transit authorities raise approximately $800 million per year from their riders through fares. To cut fares, the legislature would need to identify annually recurring funds and permanently pledge them to the MBTA and other regional transit authorities. The pledge would be combined with a legal mandate that the funds be used to replace fare revenue. The transit authorities could then make decisions as to how specifically to allocate the reductions. The reductions would be permanent in the sense that future increases would be limited by existing law.

For example, a 9 cent per gallon gas tax increase and a one dollar per ride charge to Uber/Lyft users would raise a little less than $400 million. This should be enough to cut transit fares in half statewide. Likely, it would be a bit more than enough given that ridership would increase and generate additional revenue.

Drivers in western Massachusetts generally drive further each day than Boston drivers and do not want to subsidize the Boston region with gas tax payments. The new collections should be returned to the regions that they are collected from to assure geographic equity. If, within a region, the collections exceed the amount necessary to eliminate transit fares, the excess should be returned to cities and towns in the region for road improvement.

How ridership changes in response to fare changes is a subject of extensive empirical research, locally, nationally and internationally. For some riders on some routes, time savings are a more important consideration than fares. That tends to be most true for rail and subway routes that can move much faster than road traffic. Except when they benefit from dedicated lanes, buses tend to move more slowly than traffic because they stop frequently. Bus ridership is more sensitive to price changes than rail ridership.

Analysis of past fare changes in the Boston region shows roughly a .15 “elasticity of demand” ratio. In other words, a 10% fare increase would yield a 1.5% ridership loss. A 50% fare decrease would be outside of the historical range of experience, but if the .15 ratio held, we could expect an overall ridership increase of something like 7.5%. On the other hand, a fare decision of that magnitude would send a strong message of support for transit ridership and might lead to a larger increase in usage.

A careful analysis would need to be done by each transit authority about how to allocate the fare decrease to achieve manageable ridership increases. The authorities would have to think carefully about fare equity and how the changes affect lower income riders. An across-the-board even decrease would be easy to explain and would probably pass equity muster, but there are other possibilities.

For example, the MBTA could completely eliminate fares for local buses while making a more modest adjustment for the subway. This would benefit some of the lowest income transit users. It would have the additional benefit for both riders and drivers that buses would not be pausing in traffic while riders pay their fares. It might also greatly simplify the implementation of any new fare technology, although it would mean foregoing the ridership data provided by collections.

There is also a good case for targeting commuter rail fares. Commuter rail fares are distance based, so that commuting from endpoints like Worcester and Lowell can cost several hundred dollars per month. On the Worcester line in particular, we need to drive ridership up in advance of the disruptions likely to be caused on the MassPike by the Allston interchange construction.

As much as we struggle to provide more affordable housing, people of modest income find themselves increasingly priced out of the urban core. We need to make it economically feasible for them to commute to the high employment core of the region or they will be deprived not only of their preferred housing but of employment.

Reader Reaction Poll Results

We should raise taxes to cut transit fares as outlined above.

Agree (N=236)59.3%
Disagree (N=80)20.6%
Not sure or don’t like the question as framed (N=82)20.1%
Readers responding within 48 hours (N=398)100.0%

A gas tax increase of 9 cents combined with an Uber/Lyft fee increase of $1 would suffice to cut all bus, subway and commuter rail fares in half all across the state.

Insights from Comments

Thanks to the almost 400 people who chose to submit their quick reaction to the proposal for a broad-based fare cut funded by tax increases and especially to the over 100 who chose to comment in more detail below. I have read all of the comments through October 13.

The overall reaction to the proposal among my readers was supportive, but the critical input was also helpful and I’d like to summarize my own thinking at this point. There are several reasons to like the proposal of a broad fare cut, but they all need to be examined and qualified. A fare cut targeted to low-income riders may make more sense.

First, a fare cut seems to speak to equity. We tend to think of transit users as having more modest incomes, and certainly, the most wealthy usually have more comfortable options. However, areas well-served by transit tend to become more desirable and expensive. Only 28.8% of all MBTA users actually qualify as low-income. See Table 7. from the CTPS analysis of the most recent MBTA fare increase analysis. (Low income is defined as below 60% of the median household income.) Lowering fares for all transit users is not a well-targeted method for supporting low-income households.

Moreover, lowering fares by raising the gas tax or the Uber/Lyft fee would burden many low-income households, many of whom have no access to transit. As more and more people of limited income are priced out of the low-household-mileage urban core into high-household-mileage suburbs, the gas tax falls more and more regressively on households. And it polls badly (opposed by 68%, even for funding better transit).

Second, a fare cut promises to reduce congestion — the more people that take public transit, the fewer cars on the road. This argument makes sense on its face, but I do not believe that it is compelling. Congestion is most frustrating at rush hour. People driving at rush hour are mostly employed, so mostly not at the lowest end of the income spectrum. They are sufficiently affluent that that they can afford to drive into the city and incur parking costs, so they are less likely to change their commuting behavior based on a fare cut: They are likely to be making decisions more based on time and comfort rather than money.

The modest shift of people out of vehicles onto transit as a result of fare cuts is unlikely to make a noticeable impact on congestion. To confirm this, consider one of the more favorable places for a high impact — the MassPike corridor, where commuter rail handles about 1/3 of the corridor’s rush hour volume. A crude computation suggests that a 50% fare cut would save less than a minute for drivers. More generally, on most other routes in the region, time savings would be fully diluted amidst traffic flows that do not align with transit.

Explanation of time saving estimate:

The CTPS fare analysis at Table 1 estimates a .1 demand elasticity for commuter rail pass holders and a .2 elasticity for cash purchasers. At rush hour, the elasticity of demand is likely to be towards the lower end, so using a .15 elasticity is an optimistic assumption at rush hour. If a 50% Worcester line fare cut led to a 7.5% rush hour ridership increase (.15 elasticity) and 80% of the new ridership was shifted from vehicles on the Pike, then rush hour vehicle volume on the road would go down by about 2 percentage points from 67% to 65% of the total corridor peak volume. If a 50% traffic reduction from peak is necessary to get down to free flow speeds and save 15 minutes in travel time (as is very roughly suggested by inspection of data in the congestion report at pages 19 and 26), then travel times would likely fall by 2%/(.5*67%) * 15, in other words less than 1 minute.

A third reason to like an across-the-board fare cut is that increasing transit ridership might reduce greenhouse gases. Again, this is compelling at first glance, but we have to keep in mind that most trips are well not served by transit. Statewide, the vast majority of the miles traveled in the state are traveled in passenger vehicles. Moving people on to transit is a very limited emissions reductions strategy — we have to electrify our passenger vehicle fleet. Further, there are many more cost-effective ways to reduce emissions than transit fare cuts, for example, subsidizing electric vehicles.

Explanation of carbon cost-effectiveness statement:

The following assumptions are all as favorable as possible to the carbon cost-effectiveness of fare cuts: (a) .2 elasticity of demand, evenly distributed across modes, so that a 50% fare cut results in a 10% increase in both ridership and passenger-miles traveled; (b) all of the passenger-miles traveled increase is converted from single-occupancy-vehicle use; (c)the transit power sources are 100% renewable and/or no service increase is required; (d) the vehicles replaced get only 15 miles to the gallon.

On these favorable assumptions, the annual cost of saving one passenger-mile of driving through T fare cuts is $1.60, so the annual cost of saving a gallon of gasoline is $24.00 (at 15 miles per gallon) per year or $2.72 per kg of CO2 (at 8.887 kg CO2/gallon).

By contrast, a $10,000 electric vehicle incentive that caused a driver to shift to a fully green electric vehicle that saved 500 gallons of gasoline per year over ten years would be a $2/gallon-saved expenditure for the public, or $0.22 per kg of CO2. Similarly, bringing insulation up to code in an older home is a one-time cost in the ballpark of $9 per therm of natural gas saved annually or $1.81 per kg of CO2 emission (at 5.3 kg CO2/therm) annually for the life of the house, roughly $0.09 per kg of CO2, assuming only a 20 year life. For another comparison, the Obama whitehouse economic advisors estimated the social cost of carbon in 2020 at $42/ metric ton of CO2, or $0.04 per kg of CO2.

Fourth, it seems likely that the modest ridership increases likely from a fare cut could be accommodated without additional service spending. A tighter squeeze is always possible, but at rush hour, most transit routes are heavily crowded already. While crowding is self-limiting, more crowding would hardly be desirable from the perspective of loyal riders.

Interim Conclusion

Many commenters responded with critiques of the MBTA’s service and management. While the service still needs improvement, I believe the current management is strong and has set the system on a course of long-term improvement that we will all begin to feel within a few more years. When we see strong increases in capacity on the Red and Orange Lines and the commuter rail, as we have good cause to expect in within two or three years, that may be a more appropriate time for broad-based fare cuts to attract ridership.

Better-targeted cuts still merit short-run consideration:

  • Following the release of an MIT study showing that fares limit limit mobility of low-income households, MBTA management committed to study a discount fare for low-income riders (see livestream of June 10, 2019 meeting at 55:50, July 22, 2019 meeting at 1:12:30 and full presentation at meeting of August 12, 2019 at 1:22:00). Completion of the MBTA’s study is expected later this year. This study may show the way to a more efficient and equitable fare cut that the legislature might want to support financially.
  • Fare discounts for low income commuter rail riders has a special appeal, as they would support transit oriented development in gateway cities. Table 7 of the recent fare analysis shows that 93.2% are not low income, so across the board commuter rail fare cuts are not appealing. Yet, it makes sense to consider connecting affordable housing in gateway cities to Boston jobs through discount fares for lower-income workers.
  • An alternative targeted approach to fare reduction which some are urging informally would be elimination of fares on buses. Bus fare elimination might simplify implementation of the new fare collection system and tend to benefit lower-income riders. It would also be very inexpensive, since (a) many bus trips also result in subway trips (no fare loss on those trips given existing transfer policy) and (b) fare recovery is generally low already on bus-only trips. Additionally, eliminating bus fares might accelerate buses by speeding boarding. A concern about bus fare elimination was raised by a commenter: we have to consider how we would manage the possibility that if the buses were free the buses would start to be heavily occupied by people who are not actually trying to get someplace. That might degrade service for riders who are using the service as intended. Additionally, since subways would not be discounted many lower-income riders might not actually benefit.


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

183 replies on “Cut T Fares?”

  1. I sympathize with the idea to reduce overhead by eliminating fares on buses or other aspects of transit, but one common reaction to doing so is a huge uptick in “problem riders” – see I believe that the burden for riding transit – monetary, convenience-wise, and comfort-wise – should be made as small as possible, and reducing fares (especially on commuter rail lines) is an excellent idea for equity as well as congestion reasons, but unfortunately eliminating fares altogether is probably not good. I also think on most transit systems, spending money on more frequent, reliable service would do more good than slashing fares. But if we can have both, we should have both!

    1. Thanks for sharing this piece — it makes some compelling arguments against fare free service. The issue of problem riders who are not there to travel is certainly valid.

      The points about riders’ priorities are also well taken — safety, reliability, convenience. I’m considering the investment in fare cuts in the context of what appears to be a maximal investment in reliability improvement — they can’t spend more capital funds.

    2. The issue is about the reliability of the MBTA. Also fares aren’t collected at least on the Green D line which I use. With the Billions being spent to upgrade the T will be a tax burden enough. You are pushing the cart before the horse. And no I am not old enough to use the phrase.

    3. From that pdf: “truant school children, vagrants, and other “dubious categories” of…”

      Okay, if we’re going to raise this point perhaps it helps to not mince words to aid in clarity of thought. If there’s no fare on the buses you’re afraid you’re always going to smell homeless people when you ride them, because they would use it as shelter. That’s it right? Why otherwise would anyone take a bus to no where in particular.
      First, the smell you object to is simply the smell of not having washed clothes for a certain, surprisingly short, number of days. You can try this experiment yourself. It doesn’t take long to reproduce the smell if you don’t change and wash your clothes over 3 or 4 days. So if you want not to smell it then provide facilities for those who can’t afford a place and have no way to take a shower. Public showers of some kind, more funding to shelters, etc.
      Related to this perhaps is the lack of public washrooms around the city. Even for those of us with homes, you have to know the city pretty well if you wander about and don’t have an iron bladder. I once visited Milan for a job. They had public washrooms near the transit stops with a small fee you pay for the salary of the person employed there to keep them clean and secure. Failing that more of the Portland Loo’s or whatever the thing in Harvard Square is called would be helpful (but someone has to service them from time to time, “things” happen.)
      But I guess we aren’t wealthy enough in Massachusetts to tackle homelessness and instead should try to keep such people out of site and off our buses.

  2. Uber and Lyft are both causing traffic congestion. The one dollar per ride tax to subsidize the MBTA sounds like a great idea

    1. As a fan and user of Lyft/Uber, I reluctantly agree. I’d always imagined ride sharing reduced congestion, but studies (Schaller and others) suggest the contrary.

      But raising taxes on gasoline, which is unreasonably cheap in this country given its societal cost, should have a broader effect. Those taxes could also be earmarked for pollution mitigation, infrastructure repair, and alternative energy development.

    1. No fare decrease.
      Commuters don’t use the T (commuter rail & subway) because of poor service & delays.
      Taking $$ from the T when $$ is needed to improve service is not helpful.

        1. We should give them more money to improve or replace trains not to cut fares. That should be our first concern. Improve service and people will not complain about the fare.

  3. I agree that MBTA fares need to be lowered, service needs to be improved (faster, higher frequency, higher reliability), drivers need to carry a larger financial burden, and car traffic needs to be discouraged (in Boston, but also wherever else possible). However, many people use Uber/Lyft because of the problems with the MBTA, and charging those Lyft/User users higher fares before improvements are made to the MBTA seems unfair. At the same time, I recognize that Uber/Lyft seriously contribute to Boston’s traffic and emissions, and people need to be encouraged to use other modes (e.g. MBTA) because they are made to be faster, cheaper, more convenient than they currently are. Another revenue source that should be explored is dynamic pricing for tolls and parking.

    1. Disagree about drivers carrying a larger burden. I don’t think the roads are congested because there are more drivers. I think it is because different schedules. You are now just as likely to find a traffic jam at 2pm as you are at 5pm. If folks are going to WFH, then they should WFH and not be running errands. Additionally, parking costs in Boston are already outrageous, and that would only burden drivers – not Uber/Lyft, not Buses, not Trains. I believe Uber/Lyft contribute to the jams significantly not because they exist but because they never know where they are going. If I am behind an Uber/Lyft, then I try to get in front of it. And tolls just shift the places people drive. Mass Pike traffic would move more and more to Storrow Drive for example. A gas tax is really the best solution because all traditional vehicles included the motorized bikes need gas.

  4. Our fares keep going up while the quality of service goes down. At least if I didn’t have to pay for it (or had to pay much less), it wouldn’t bother me so much when the green line has a disabled train. I’m wary of getting more people on the T… the B green line and the 66 bus are already overcrowded when I’m commuting, so the T would have to keep up with demand. Maybe the new green line cars will help with this and it won’t be so much of an issue? I never take the commuter rail during rush hour(s) so I can’t speak to that.

    Thanks for looking into this thoroughly and being open to new ideas!

    1. We need to consider senior citizens, and the ill
      using the T, it often isn’t healthy for them to take the T. Many people go to our local hospitals, colleges, schools, businesses and they should be able to use the T without it breaking down. Why not cut the benefits of the MBTA workers, and cut the money some,
      their benefits are way out of control. No one ever considers this do they!!
      People who don’t use the T shouldn’t have to pay for it. The area is way too crowded now, buidling more apartments all over the place should be stopped it is bringing way too many people and people need to live elsewhere. Lowering the price of the MBTA prices and then socking it to the home owners and others is wrong on all levels.Why don’t we publish the salaries and benefits of the MBTA workers, and all the people in government in Massachusetts. How much does Charlie Baker make in a year, or Marty Walsh? The taxes are hurting the middle class.

  5. As the late Bruce Bolling would say it’s like robbing Peter to feed Paul. A fee, a tax, it’s all the same thing with a different name.

    My goal long term to get rid of the outrageous MBTA pension system the likes of Mike Mulhern have milked for decades and make the MBTA completely free resulting in more ridership, less cars on the road thus saving on road repairs and having less traffic.

  6. I support this 100%. I hear too many people saying “I would take the T, but driving is cheaper.” This shouldn’t be the case. We are choking on traffic congestion, yet there are people who are driving who would prefer not to be?! That’s nuts!

    1. The thing is, driving will still be pretty cheap even if the T is free. Driving needs to be more expensive to really have a substantial impact on behavior.

    2. Driving is not cheaper. Car insurance, maintenance, paying for parking, gas, car payments, excise tax, etc. On a monthly basis, a driver can easily pay $600 if total yearly costs are over 7k.

      1. If you already “own” a car, car payments, excise taxes, and insurance are mostly fixed costs that don’t increase with each new trip. The in-your-face incremental costs are parking, then gasoline, and maybe maintenance, and if that’s lower than the T, you might well choose to drive.

        One proposal I’ve seen for changing the in-your-face cost of driving is to link legal-minimum insurance directly or nearly directly to miles driven; back before e-cars were so common, as a “gas tax” (it would be large), more recently now that GPS and cell data service are relatively cheap and ubiquitous, as a direct per-mile cost. (There’s privacy issues, hoo-boy.)

    3. Driving isn’t cheaper than the T unless you’re using the commuter rail – that cost is insane….Eg, $15 each way from Haverhill and horrible schedule, too.

  7. We need to increase ridership, drink decrease traffic on the roads. A modest tax increase is a small price to pay but less traffic congestion and pollution.

  8. Sen B. I think we need some new revenue for the MBTA, but I was a bit surprised at my irritation with taxing shared rides services . The T cannot seem to get me anywhere on time with any reasonable level of reliability, so the more expensive alternative I feel obliged to take will be made more expensive? It really feels that we keep giving the T more money through various vehicles, including higher fares, and we do not see any appreciable improvement. Why would I support more of the same? The T and state government needs to have some sustained improvement without such a punitive funding approach. I am not sure what that is, and it may have to be a general tax to address the western MA concerns, or some business funding since they seem to want their workforce to arrive on time. Any question about more funding for the T without plausible accountability is hard to answer positively.

  9. I agree with the other commentators. I want a clean, safe and reliable service that is well-maintained. I was willing to do that for my car when I drove and I am certainly willing to pay taxes for good service for all.

    1. Brilliant. People complain constantly about traffic and how it makes them late. The new bus only lanes have made the trips to the subways faster than the cars and it’s clearly the smart way to handle both the adverse impact of all the vehicles to climate change while encouraging more folks to use public transportation. Some of us wonder why Trump continues to subsidize fossil fuels by the 10s of billions of tax dollars a year and lift restrictions on corporate pollution while we have people like you that pay attention to the science and are trying to preserve the planet instead of rush the armageddon! Raise the cost of gasoline already!

  10. Although I drive to work, I’d be happy to pay more in gas taxes to support lower T fares — in fact, I’d suggest raising the gas tax high enough to improve the T service as well. The overall benefits to the commonwealth would be well worth it.

  11. I wonder is there is data on who uses uber and Lyft, would adding to their fees hurt low income people more than higher income people, the opposite, or no difference.

  12. Maybe a small tax increase in the most wealthy counties would be most equitable. Many of these same wealthy locales are probably; most able to afford a nominal increase and will benefit from a lowering of “cut-thru” vehicles at rush hour.
    thanks Will

  13. I agree.
    One additional thought. A senior discount is granted irrespective of financial need. Would it be difficult to change this? Would there be worthwhile savings for the T?

    1. Getting into income verification creates a whole new set of issues . . . unless one wants to limit use to people who are participating in some other means-tested program. I think part of the theory of the senior pass program is that it is that seniors are likely to be riding off-peak and that it might create new demand.

      1. Perhaps there needn’t be verification. Just income questions in the application. Some people may lie, but many will be truthful.

  14. I agree that the T fares should be lower to incentive people to use the T who can. The tax strategy can be done through a focused strategy directed at cars – gas tax; more tolls. While I hate to suggest it, the I93 corridor could also be a source of funds through some tolling there to encourage people to get out of their cars.

  15. Will. I like the idea of free bus rides. It would be easy to track ridership by a motion sensitive device like turnstiles use.
    You are demonstrating the kind of thinking we need more of.

    Please push for this idea to be developed into a formal proposal.

  16. This is a very well thought out examination of the issue, Sen. Brownsberger. I 100% support this approach.

  17. I am not sure I understand all the angles completely. I do feel, however, that we need to create incentives for commuter rail folks. The one off, occasional T rider should help subsidize the folks riding 5 days/week from longer distances.

  18. If you have a scarce resource, making it free will worsen the problem. Public transit capacity on urban core routes, particularly during rush hour, is a very scarce resource. Often you do not have the physical capacity to increase trips, and more riders simply further worsens the experience for the riders. You should not cut fares on these routes. The MBTA already offers passes and other mechanisms to ensure access for people with limited income.
    Cutting fares during off-peak times, or on under-utilized routes, would make a great deal of sense. You have said in the past that the MBTA doesn’t have the capability on its current smart card system to make changes like this, or even to see how riders are using their system. That problem should be solved, and quickly. Why is the T willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building out brick and mortar infrastructure without also ensuring parallel investments into data management to better utilize and optimize their existing assets?
    Gas taxes should be increased anyway, simply because they are too low to even cover the current spending on roads. Whether you apply the proceeds to public transit or to reimbursing local governments for their road expenses is a separate issue.
    A fee on lyft and uber is an interesting idea, as there is growing evidence that the services are cutting into public transit demand (though in fairness often providing a better quality service) and driving up urban congestion. But aside from politics, why would you institute the fee on ride sharing services but not on conventional taxis? And if you care about congestion, how about modifying taxi operating rights so they can legally pick up passengers during their backhauls rather than being frozen out of nearby cities based on their local medallion?

    1. Agree would modifying medallion laws. Taxi drivers do have a knowledge base that ride shares don’t. They provide value, pay them for that instead of letting ride share companies extract rents. Another idea more shuttle services from industrial parks to popular drop-off spots such as Watertown Sq, Alewife, Exit 17, Cushing Sq in Belmont, Moody St in Waltham, etc. Companies often get tax benefits for coming here. Why not let them provide such services? Hotels in tourist spots function prefect well with shuttle services.

  19. This is an interesting idea. I am presently not for or against it. However raising taxes will not be welcome as you know. It may put burden on people with fixed income or who are retired and don’t us the transit system very or even drive much. People who will not directly benefit will oppose it.

    I believe some cities subsidizes transit with higher car tolls. This should be looked into if it hasn’t already.

    Adding increasing service where needed such as Bosting Landing while keeping the cost down is difficult. Making the transit more cost effective should be a priority. However I would not like money wasted on studies with little results.

    I am open to hear additional information about this.

  20. I do not own a car, so the Uber tax would impact me. I 100% agree with it. At certain non-peak times (e.g., Sundays), the cost of Uber or Lyft rivals the cost of the T for certain intracity trips, I have observed, but I choose Uber or Lyft because they are way more convenient than the T. In those times, the extra $1 fee coupled by (hopefully) improvements making the T less inconvenient would then tip the scales toward me taking the T instead of the rideshare, thus reducing traffic on the road and encouraging use of public transportation. I like the idea, especially if the T actually improves according to its existing plans we always hear about (I acknowledge you are just trying to cost-shift with this idea, and there is no new funding intended here to improve the T).

  21. How ’bout making parking FREE at all T lots to get more people onto the trains? Taxes always seems to be the answer to all Democrats, which is what most of our politicians in this state are. And you might also consider the retirement of T workers. I’m told they get a great retirement at young ages and then go on to other state jobs, double dipping the state all the way to the bank.

    1. I think this idea has merit. Is there enough parking capacity? How about a trial at one station – Riverside? Or even better, at one of the Commuter Rail stations that has excess capacity to test the effect and to attract the further out commuters that would use highways instead and use the most expensive commuting option and would thus save the most money.

        1. The price of the Watertown lot went down to $2.50/day and, though it took a while for people to catch on, now it often fills up before 10am. Free parking would just make the situation much worse.

    2. More parking lots would be better so that cost would be lower. Not every abandoned space has to be turned into a condo. How about some lots? There is a significant amount of run down space in Waltham that sits idle just collecting rats and sheltering drug activity. Friends in those neighborhoods want some smart development.

  22. I am not sure that the premise of lowering fares would increase T ridership. The main reason I don’t take the T or bus is because it is unreliable, not available in certain areas and takes too long. My car takes me in and out of Boston in under 20 minutes, on average. I do agree with using a gas tax because it gives people control over how much gas they want to consume. If this were an income tax, then I would feel more hesitant since the city of Boston could cover it with its many 1% inhabitants. And a property tax is no-go because those same inhabitants are coming out here and artificially raising the property values. There’d be more supply if other towns (the ones surrounding Watertown) didn’t have such segregationist zoning laws. A gas tax is best as it taxes uniformly, and combats environmental hazards.

    1. I agree with all of this. I usually only take the bus (with a recent dedicated lane that is amazing & awesome!) but I wouldn’t need it to be free; 1/2 price, I think, would make a big difference, and would help lots of people. I feel like the commuter rail would be a good place to target fare reductions, for the exact reasons Will specifies. I do wonder who would be hurt most by the big addition to ride-share rides, but if transit was cheaper/faster/more reliable, I think people would be happy to use it.

    2. I am in agreement with the spirit of this. Increased reliability and frequency will increase ridership. I am HAPPY to pay for a reliable service and would use it much more if I knew I could make my meeting in time taking the T. I do like making driving more expensive – Uber tax is not bad, but other factors would help – PARKING should be expensive and GASOLINE should be expensive.

      1. Agree, except with the parking part. If you have to go into the city for an interview or doctor’s appointment then you leave the city having paid $50.00 for for a few hours. Again, not going to take the T/Bus for such things.

  23. If you are using tax money to support the infrastructure, fine. If you are taxing everyone to support another groups ride, then no. I’m already reading some of the responses where the writer wants the tax hike to be targeted towards specific communities. If anything, add a ‘temporary’ fare increase and ‘temporary’ tax to fix the crumbling infrastructure, then REMOVE both. The infrastructure improvements helps the property values and the riders have a better system, and those who use the system are also involved in the fix.

    1. If, within a region, the collections exceed the amount necessary to eliminate transit fares, the excess should be returned to cities and towns in the region for road improvement.
      Change that word should to shall or will
      I would be in favor. Lawyers and politicians have a funny way with words.

  24. I use the T quite a lot, but have been discouraged by the increasingly poor service lately and have started driving more. I think that raising taxes could be a solution IF the T makes improvements BEFORE they go into effect. They haven’t won my trust that they are willing or capable of giving us really good service.

  25. AGREE! I completely support encouraging transit use and making it less expensive and higher taxes to pay for it. We also need more transit capacity to support increased usage. Revenue would hopefully be raised in a progressive and environmentally sensitive way (VMT tax, inflation indexed gas tax, carbon tax…)

  26. I support and appreciate your continued dedication to trying to improve our transit system and in doing so, address global warming.
    The current floods of traffic are significant with one person in every car. Admittedly carpooling is hard to promote since everyone has an agenda of errands to run, obligations to meet, and don’t want to give up independence. The recent article on encouraging more working from home was timely.

    Fares certainly impact riders in the city. We have an historically important system that would be astronomically expensive to revamp to address the real routes that many people need. By the time you have taken three buses and perhaps a subway as well, you have spent an hour and a half trying to get across town or into town. No free fares can fix that problem. Certainly buses are more flexible for rerouting as was done on a couple of the Belmont route but so much of the system is rail bound and immoveable.

    Rail fares are higher for more efficient travel but the limits to parking negatively impact ridership. For example the Littleton lot is so small and fills early that many potential riders from the area are turned away. This is the only efficient method for getting to Boston from that area without driving.
    A quick look at Route 2 from Acton to Rte 95 N or S shows very slow movement in the traffic packed lanes going into town in the AM and out in the PM with traffic already jamming the routes by 3 PM, and the reverse from early hours to often as late as 10 AM. The same is true for 95 in either direction. I don’t know how people bear this twice a day, every day!
    Our rush hour has expanded from 6 AM to 8 PM if one looks at the main streets through Belmont.

    Will reduced fares help these situations? Unlikely. Since current transit solutions don’t resolve these issues. More satellite parking with shuttles? Expanding the Alewife garage to the two additional levels that were boasted about at its opening? Simple maintenance is taking those funds.

    Raising the gasoline tax is probably the least painful but considering the size of most of the cars on our highways, gas economy is the least of the worries of the drivers of these huge SUVs and trucks of all sizes. Fees for Uber and Lyft? Why not? I don’t use either and don’t plan to but I have read that these add to traffic without revenue to address the impact.

    Restructure the traffic management: the new bus lane on Belmont Street once it melds past Aberdeen causes backups in auto traffic until lane suddenly allows a right turn and then immediately after the light leads into chaos with left turning traffic causing backups, a mysteriously appearing third lane that is unclear what direction it is to carry and the necessary slipping past on the right lane that then requires maneuvering into the proper lane for Mem Drive, Storrow Drive/Soldier’s Field Rd, or the road on the right past BB&N. An additional frustration is the 3 second green light on lower Aberdeen for left turns causing backups, illegal left turns and much frustration. If lucky, perhaps three cars get through; more often only 2.

    Now that everyone is checking their phone at every stop there is a ridiculous delay in the response of the drivers when a light turns green leading to even more backups as each car slowly begins to continue on.

    You might have guessed that recently I have experienced most of these issues! Forgive the venting! We have it easy compared to many who need to cross Boston to get to work.

    1. Gas Tax absolutely! WFH policy has a major flaw in that people do not stay home. Since people have cellphones they are conducting meetings from the cleaners, the lunch place, the dentist office, the gym, the shopping center, the coffee shop, the place they are not supposed to be at, etc. The driving while on the phone is not as problematic as the person running errands all over the place while WFH. As an aside, I am leery of the bill purposal to ban texting while driving as it has some tenants that unnecessarily burden certain populations. Cops need to be pursing other matters instead of sitting in their cars and waiting for someone to commit an infraction.

  27. I think that without increasing capacity driving more ridership won’t actually work. We will need to cough up enough revenue so that the subway/buses/commuter rail can actually carry those extra passengers. That means spending money on updates and also on enforcing things like bus lanes.

  28. I am for a free T. Consider all the salary and benefits positions you could cut. Plus fare taking machines, etc.
    It’s a great stimulus for those that rely on the T to get to work. Also great for retail and businesses. I know it will probably never happen, but that’s my 2 cents.

  29. The proposal as stated seems straightforward, but I am not sure it is politically viable. I have the impression — and it is no more than an impression — that the MBTA union(s) are politically strong enough to suck up any and all increases in revenues. After all, they seem to have been strong enough to prevent current revenues from being spent on maintenance. At least so far. Am I wrong?

    1. The unions engage in collective bargaining with management. I don’t think we’d change the balance of that bargaining process either way with this proposal.

      But we are definitely spending the money we need to on maintenance. It’s just going to take some more years of doing so to catch up.

  30. I rarely use the T and do not think raising taxes and making Uber or Lyft pay “a tax” to bring down the fare is fair.

  31. I agree with much of your thinking, Will. Probably making the buses free would be the most effective and most equitable. And they do need more dedicated lanes.

  32. Are you serious? What about using money from the mass port and mass pike to help with the T…
    Drivers continue to be taken advantage of.

  33. In general I agree that raising money via fees and/or taxes in order to make the T more attractive (lower fares, improved service and reliability) is a good idea. However, raising the tax on gasoline unduly burdens people at an economic disadvantage, either because their incomes are modest or because they live in areas where jobs are relatively few and/or low-paying and they must commute relatively long distances to provide for themselves and their families. Rather than tax people who drive, why not raise the same money from employers of at least a certain size? This would have less effect on the western part of the Commonwealth, little if any effect on people of limited means who must drive to work, and might encourge some creativity on the part of those employers that would have the effect of reducing the total amount of commuting associated with their business. When a business can demonstrate that their program reduces commuting by some amount, they could get a credit against this tax program. What’s right and would work for one company might be completely different for another. For example, at least in some cases it might make sense for some employees to work 4 10-hour days a week instead of 5 8-hour days. That would reduce their commuting miles by 20%.

  34. Agree with any measure that cuts down CO2 emissions. I doubt that a tax increase would cost more than what many frequent T riders already pay in fares, especially if it’s scaled to income.
    However, I’d like the tax proceeds to go also toward big improvement projects on the T that could increase service and reliability, but that are unlikely to get done without substantial investment. I’d also like thorough oversight to ensure that the money is being used efficiently and thoughtfully. Not sure where all the extra fare money has gone over the past 20 years of fare increases
    Is a carbon tax out of the question if it’s not in a broader regional context? And is an institutional endowment tax like the one proposed in the 2018 gubernatorial race off the table?

  35. Anything to get people out of their cars. A gas tax is necessary, even completely apart from this issue. We have oversubsidized gas in this country for years. Try renting a car in Europe, where the gas prices reflect the cost to the environment.
    Another problem is that while most (I assume) commuters are going straight into the center of town and out again, there are many people who don’t use the spokes of the wheel to get where they need to go, and that is very hard to do with the current system. I live in Watertown and work in Brookline. It’s not far, but there’s no practical way to take public transit from home to work, and too much of the route is unsafe for biking. Driving crosstown, as anyone knows, is a traffic nightmare.
    I do agree with making public transit as cheap as possible for everyone. I volunteer at a homeless cafe and everytime we warn our patrons about a fare increase, you should hear the groans. They can’t afford it, and neither can a lot of people who face poverty and scarcity issues. And if it’s cheap for everyone, it blunts the argument from some quarters who don’t want “their” money going to “other” people.

  36. Gas taxes yes, but not other types. We’re Seniors on Fixed Income and we pay too much here in Belmont.

  37. This approach would, hopefully, cut down on some driving in cars, and that would help the environmental emissions-reduction goal. Persons without cars would benefit, and this is a good use of funds.

  38. I am trying to square this message with an earlier one that you sent about how Toronto addressed its challenges. I can’t help but think that our tax dollars are STILL going to to folks who are in stuck in some irrelevant and unhelpful past.

    1. Toronto has developed a great purchasing approach that could help us speed up change — especially for the big possible rail projects.

      But I think a lot of good work is getting done right now using traditional procurement methods.

  39. I LOVE YOUR IDEA!!! First things first. Why is the T tied down with the debt from the Big Dig? How was that considered appropriate? I know why the T has been so neglected…all the media, commercials, etc. encourages Americans to be independent–instead of being community-oriented and adequately funding the T, workers sit in traffic for hours every day, with cars spewing out more fumes. How stupid is that? How selfish is it that the orange line, which travels through Boston, among the poorest residents, has had the oldest, dumpiest cars? The Green line cars are spiffy-looking. Americans, grow up and see how you’re being used so that others who pretend they are not vulnerable to environmental disasters can make billions of dollars!

  40. It might be a good idea. Right now it’s unfair the way fares are collected. Some people pay. Some don’t.

    I take at least 4 busses every day and see people getting on for free every day. All it takes is a brief “song and dance” to the bus driver and the rider is usually waved on for free. When I emailed the MBTA to inquire about this, they said the driver is only required to request the fare, but not to enforce it, so apparently this policy is well known among folks riding the system.

    Social policy, as regards who pays fares, should not be getting set by the individual bus drivers. These issues need to be aired and discussed and decided by public consensus.

    It seems particularly unfair when taking the express buses. The riders pay extra to ride those busses. I think it creates unfairness, then, when the bus drivers wave some riders on for free… especially when, as with the 502/504 express bus, there is an alternative non-express bus available that will take the rider to the same destination.

    I don’t have the answers. Just sharing my own experiences.

  41. Will,
    I support this 100%. The gasoline tax hasn’t increased for many years while costs continue to rise. We should definitely be encouraging transit over uber as these ride shares are now cluttering our roads. I drive regularly to Worcester but would be willing to pay more via an increased gas tax especially if it meant that the Worcester Regional Transit Authority could provide better service to its mostly low income riders. Thanks for your work on this.

  42. Impressive answers! Especially poor Carolyn. (Hope I got the essay writer Correct.
    *We taxing Democrats know you can’t do one thing for free. All these parking lots for example
    *Not every Lyft or Uber is occupied by 1 person. I’ve been crammed going from a hospital or University.
    *Unintended consequences. The rental tax to punish Airbnb has decimated income for many poor & elderly people. The $ was meant to come from renter to state but owners end up paying when renters balk
    *My daughter and her partner, next to 2 Fitchburg stops couldn’t make it work financially to get to work in Harvard square. They use a lot farther away & walk
    *I had to call a Lyft for a family I help in a “satellite shelter” in Dorchester. The choices for many people just don’t work and may be unsafe
    *Snow, uneven sidewalks, lack of shelter all impact the disabled & elderly. These may be exactly the people we want to help in our we know best way.
    *In Belmont we hired an interim administrator (friend of sudden retired) for one year. Their base retirement salary upped Significantly. I’m prounion but I know cronyism when I see it.
    *I strongly support reduced fares for those who can’t afford it. More overhead? We already use this for senior citizens, reduced lunch, etc. Armed forces get discounts in various places. If it’s optional and never includes SSN we could ask for some version of Mass Health, SNAP I don’t know. Monthly passes reduced for tolls & Public transportation. Someone must have data.
    * Strongly agree gas tax is regressive. My friend has 3 kids on Medicaid and doctors appointments every where!
    *SUVs? Yep. Excise tax please. We got so many gas guzzlers off the roads with that “other program” (sorry!) Inspections, gas tax increases. Trucks on car chassises (sp) are dangerous as heck, I can’t safely see over these huge headlight blinding things in my little car.
    Unintended consequences everywhere.
    *What are other cities doing?
    *In LA I stopped taking a bus to a bus when I became carpool fodder. They have their own lane! (And more room to do so)
    I’m sure there’s more lol. I can’t afford my taxes as is in Belmont. Going to have to move & give them a nice big family for their school system.

  43. The huge tax increase I just voted for to build a new high school for future Belmont kids is plenty; and is costing us way more than I was told it was going to be! Now we have the town dog officer wanting to give out tickets at the dog designated parks unless we buy an “off leash pass” for $50. This is not the time to ask for another tax increase for anything in Belmont……

    1. Kathy I agree with you
      Cut the pensions of the MBTA- too many people ride the T at morning rush hour
      We are taxed to death

  44. I disagree 100% because for most people, public transportation isn’t an option.

    According to Google Maps, my old commute from Brighton to Needham by car is 26 minutes, by public transportation 61 minutes. During snow emergencies, when parking in Brighton was almost impossible, I would take off work rather than try and take public transportation to work, seriously. Why? Because the T becomes even more unreliable and taking the T requires a .4 mile walk on a very busy road that doesn’t plow the sidewalks.

    Having recently been evicted from my apartment so the new developer/owner could raise the rent of my unit $1,500.00 per month, my current commute is an hour and 14 minutes by car and 2 hours and 22 minutes (which includes 39 minutes of walking hours by public transportation, if I perfectly match the schedule. If I work until 7 pm, my ride home by car is about 45 minutes. By T, 3 hours and 18 minutes. Public transportation could be free and I wouldn’t do that.

    For most people, public transportation isn’t an option.

  45. Hi Will, Thanks again for your advocacy for public transit. A huge challenge for the near-suburbs to the west is accessibility to the T. Lowering fares will not change that. Alewife is a mess. The old expression “time is money?” I think most people would not change their habits for 50% lower fares if they still have to spend 30 minutes stuck in traffic getting to and from the T in the first place. While extending the T out from Alewife would be a huge investment, how about leaving the fares alone but providing free or near-free parking near the intersection of 128 and route 2, and express buses from there every 10 minutes with priority lanes to Alewife. Has this ever been studied?

  46. I completely disagree and oppose raising gas taxes and/or fees on ride sharing. Cutting fares on the T will do nothing for ridership; the service is antiquated, poor and unreliable. People get what they pay for with transit options and you don’t need to subsidize one group on the back of others.

  47. Just a terrible idea! Why do democrats believe that they can fix things just by throwing money at it? As I have stated before the T is a place for the friends of our politicians who happily donate to their campaigns, it is also a place that has never been managed very well, and when management does come up with a bright idea the unions kill it. As I stated on an earlier response regarding the T they must first fix their own house by staffing properly (I mean reducing their management staff), they must manage the system like a private company would manage it, and the politicians must stop getting their friends jobs there. If they can accomplish this we will have a better idea on what is needed in additional funding. I am tired of paying more taxes to fund mismanaged systems.

    1. Private companies are not actually particularly good at managing things, it’s just that the especially incompetent ones will tend to go out of business relatively quickly. That said, if the T actually hired enough people for things like managing capital projects or supervising bus service, I am sure things would get noticeably better. The problem is that the only responses the State seems to have to T management problems are either austerity or reshuffling the top managers.

  48. No Fred, you are 100% correct.
    When I first met Senator Brownsberger, he and I had a email discussion about the out of wack salaries at the T. I just looked up the one person that I know that works at the T, in 2018 he made $118K. My guess is that if his job were advertised as available and the pay was $75k, you could fill the convention center with potential applicants. And let’s not even talk about the retirement benefits of T workers compared to most people’s benefits.

  49. If we are talking about an additional tax on incomes over 1 million dollars fine but I also want to see tolls go up on the southeast expressway , rt 93 and Storrow drive so everyone pays tolls going into Boston. Why should only the people who take the Mass Pike and Tobin Bridge pay a toll. I think the rates are fine – they are even lower than NYC and Montreal which have far better systems than Boston. We also need to look at expanding services and think about more train service going into Worcester and Springfield. Lastly expanding the Lowell line into NH might be worthy of trying using something similar to the old Budd Liners that Boston and Maine used to run

    1. Yes to expanding lines. Trains to major cities in MA from Boston are absolutely needed in order grow the economy westward. Make them fast trains too. Fast trains exist elsewhere but are rarely used in US. Also what does NY do exactly? How is it that their system brings millions of people into the city so reliably?

  50. I use the T a lot. I am not at all put off by the fare. The question as posed is too simplistic. In order to answer I would need to know what the new fares would be. I understand “elasticity of demand”. I also know that a number of other factors come into choice of goods and services, in this case, transportation. When there are choices, the perceived value of the competing goods and services must be considered. Convenience at a particular moment may be part of the calculation. I think putting an additional fee on ride sharing is a terrible idea. For elderly and and disabled people, ride sharing services are wonderful. Please keep that in mind. Let’s think this through. Sincerely, Paula Furst Neckyfarow

  51. I fully support the reduction of fares by increasing taxes and Lyft fares. I would change the allocation of any excess raised to other alternative transportation options such as bicycling and pedestrian to improve infrastructure. These need more support as well.

  52. I forgot to mention that we also need interregional transit as well. High speed transit between our metropolitan areas would enhance economic development more evenly while giving us options when traveling through the state.

  53. I suspect that the answers to your question will quite depend on whether using public transportation is an option for an individual. I commuted for 2o years from Watertown to Boston by bus and subway and only used my car when I had to drive to business meetings etc. But my bus stop was close and the change to the T at Harvard Square easy.
    I wonder whether the “elasticity of demand” figure works on the reduction side as well, if it does not go hand in hand with a service improvement, not only reliability, etc. but also with routing that includes new office parks, etc.
    I also wonder whether the free bus fares idea could not be tested on some inner city buses first to see how much ridership would really increase.

  54. I hope the idea of making all bus lines free will be considered. I’ve visited Denver, which runs free buses, and they are much more convenient and fast, and boarding truly does go more quickly. I imagine that making buses free might increase ridership by more than the 15% that a linear extrapolation suggests — which could be a real boon to drivers dealing with congested traffic as well as lower-income people. You mention regional equity issues, and I’m curious how they would play out if bus fares were eliminated.

    Thank you for exploring these possibilities!

  55. My opinion is probably incredibly unpopular, but you need to do both. But in reality doing both will still do nothing. I once heard that for every complex problem there is an easy solution and that easy solution is always wrong! Either proposal will be a drop in the ocean of our state’s transportation problem. So let’s get pie in the sky for a moment, as most if not all of what I’m going suggest will never happen.

    1. A gas tax is messy for the reasons Will mentioned. Somebody living in Northhampton is not going to benefit from the T, or benefit from someone else taking the T, as in less cars on the road. Any economist will tell you the best tax is when the person directly using the good or service directly pays for it. What you really need to do is set up transponders on every bridge and every major road. Every time you drive over that bridge/etc. you get dinged 10 cents or something like that. The money goes only to that bridge or that road. You use the bridge or the road you pay for it. Simple. Then you completely eliminate all “general tax” money spent on roads. As is stands now the person paying for the T is still paying for the roads through their taxes. IF you decide to drive then you should pay for all the costs associated with it. Also in this case the person in Northhampton pays for roads there and not here and vice versa. The technology for this has existed for decades.

    2. A congestion tax in Boston, similar to London’s would also help

    3. Raise the fare on the T, but exempt anyone over the age of 60 and 19 or below, hell let them ride for free, they are a tiny minority of T riders anyway. Same goes for anyone on public assistance if you need to. Sure pricing it has gone up recently, but that’s making up for years of under funding. Prices in Boston are stupid low compared to the metro in DC, or the NYC Subway. We can’t expect the service on the T to get any better if we cut their main source of revenue. I agree that it’s horribly mismanaged but let’s get some new equipment and then work on the people problem.

    4. Let’s remove the Big Dig’s debt from the T’s budget. It was criminal that way that $1.7 billion in debt was transferred to the T because the state wanted it off their budget. That was certainly some clever accounting work. I took the T before the big dig and take it now, it benefitted very little from it. As outlined #1 and #2, put a toll on the Zakim bridge and make the cars in Boston pay for the Big Dig, not the T.

    5. Lastly we need high speed rail. If they can build private bullet train from Houston to Dallas, why on earth can’t we build one from NYC to Boston (the Acela is not high speed rail). If that proves profitable then build another from Boston to Albany, then another to Providence, then another Portland. Commuters should be able to get from Springfield to Boston (with stops in Worcester and Waltham) in 45 minutes on the train. Not only will that ease congestion it will be the only thing that helps with housing affordability in the state.

    Of course I realize that none of this will happen. But going with Plan A or B here certainly won’t fix the problem.

    1. Let’s remove the Big Dig’s debt from the T’s budget this is right the thing to do. I also agree with the high speed rail idea. I am sure some group is lobbying against it. However, the people in North Hampton would benefit from less carbon emissions. The gas tax would be a positive for all in that it may accelerate less use of fossil fuel. Driving will still occur even if more take the T. So let’s incentivize drivers to shift to other fuel sources.

  56. The rapid growth of Lyft and Uber indicates that there is a segment of the market willing to pay much more for transport if it is personalized and rapid. Those ventures uncovered hidden demand and have improved quality of life in many ways. What can we learn from that? Maybe that there is a constituency for better public transit. Maybe that the cost of better transit has to be socialized in a higher gas or other tax.

  57. Not sure I buy into the belief that lower fares would increase ridership. The constant headlines noting how unreliable the T and Commuter Rail are would outweigh any incentive from a cost change, in my opinion.

  58. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to weigh in. I absolutely think we should be doing whatever is necessary to curb vehicle use and encourage public transportation. That said, the quality of our public transportation must improve if people rely on it. I would also invest heavily in safer bike paths.

  59. I use Lyfta lot?since I don’t drive. I am okay with the tax per ride idea. But I do have concerns. We need to tip the driver, how can we make sure that we are not tipping the driver less to recover the taxes? Also, I found the buses sometimes simply didn’t take money, because the machine was not working. It wasted a lot of money. Need to address this as well.

  60. Yes, raise taxes, but raise taxes for higher income people more than for lower income people.

  61. Agree fares should be decreased or free for buses…I worked with low income and homeless families and they really struggled to pay T fares.
    Don’t agree on Uber tax…. employers whose working poor employees rely on public transportation should contribute.

  62. I’m all for this. I only use the T occasionally but I think we need to make public transportation more affordable and desirable for those who need it. I am a retired educator and willing to pay my fare share.

  63. Sorry, I am sick and tired of taxes being raised to benefit others. Read the Constitution. We are a ‘tax happy’ state and it seems as though the wonderful people of Massachusetts do not mind their money being
    taken out of their pockets to support whatever politicians believe we need money to support. I love this state, but I am tired of the taxes. Figure out another way of off setting costs other than more taxes.

    1. First we are a Commonwealth, and the fact that there is a Constitution implies some sort of social contract in which we are beholden to one another. I wish someone would read the Constitution as things like the reapportionment act dilute the representational power of less rural states. Secondly, it is time to put the Taxachusetts label to bed with the Welfare Queen fairy tale. If one doesn’t want to pay taxes then one can move to NH. However, one will often to come back to the Commonwealth of MA for jobs. Thirdly, a gas tax would benefit all as it can encourage the switchover to green tech. I think green tech, more than recycling or any other measure, will give us the biggest bang for our bucks. It is saving Google data centers tons of money! Clean air is a good thing as it means less healthcare costs later on. I am sick and tired of people being pennywise and pound-foolish.

  64. Our taxes are high enough thank you. We don’t need to increase them to subsidize a small subset of the population who chooses public transportation. I would love to not have to pay the high cost of fueling, insuring and maintaining private transportation that I need to work. However I don’t think it’s fair to increase taxes to benefit me personally. Stop looking to take the easy way out by adding taxes, and instead do the hard work to decrease the budget, routing out waste so you can pay for needed infrastructure improvements.

  65. Yes, it’s high time a higher gas tax was imposed, but since the city buses I use are already often full, eliminating fares to make them more accessible makes little sense. Extra money from a gas tax could help the T and commuter rail provide more buses, trains and drivers so public transportation becomes a more attractive option to driving. Rebates might be made available to those having to drive to work in parts of the state w/o adequate public transportation, and also to those who drive to work in HOV lanes.

  66. I think reducing the T fare to free is a great idea. I think it would have a significant impact on T ridership, moving many people from other less efficient modes of transit to the T. I both drive and take the T and I would definitely drive less if the T were free. I would gladly pay a few cents more on gas if that made the T cheaper. And free has a big psychological impact, making it significantly more attractive than even a minuscule fare.

    However, I think it is important that the T frequency increases and the quality of service improves to handle the additional load without exasperating riders and creating a backlash effect.

    A cheaper T will actually improve the situation for ALL residents, even those who don’t use the T. By moving drivers out of cars over to mass transit, there will be less traffic and the remaining drivers will have clearer roads and faster travel. Pedestrians and cyclists would also have less traffic congestion to deal with, and everyone’s quality of life would improve.

  67. Given existing issues of maintenance and reliability, is this the time to be attracting new riders? Plus which, didn’t MA voters turn down an automatic gas tax increase a few years back? Or, it sounds like a good idea for the future, but now?

    1. I support your doubt. I stopped riding the redline not because it is too expensive, but because I could not get on at rush hour frequently at park street in downtown. It is also slow, uncomfortable and un-reliable. All kinds of issues, medical emergencies, equipment failures, doors cannot close or when doors close they cannot open. Also, the topology of MBTA and buses makes people drive, because getting from Alewife to Malden center would take at least one hour to ride to downtown for a transition to Malden. And there are many places you can’t go to due to lack of services.

  68. Instead of focusing on taxing commuters on their way to and from work, tax the employers who rely on the commuting workforce — especially those employers who are paying less than their share of taxes due to state / city incentives / or leniency directed at wealthy colleges which supposedly have an obligation to contribute to the tax base but don’t. If they want the talent, have corporates & institutions ante up in order to get their employees to work on time and safely.

  69. Contrary to your statement, Mass Transit fare decreases will not incentivize more ridership or take people out of their cars. It will simply shift more of the burden of paying for mass transit onto automotive users. This is both unfair and inefficient.
    Mass Transit should pay it’s own way.
    The solution is to create a system that convenient, efficient and affordable and does not (beyond initial investment) require public funds to operate.

  70. I like your ideas. However reliability and usability of the MBTA services need to also be addressed. For example the transfer/connection points need to have route schedules that are better coordinated. If I can get to transfer point A easily but then need to wait an hour for the connecting bus/T I am more likely to drive or call a lyft/uber/taxi. Better reliability and usability will give drivers more of a reason to use the T/buses and reduce road congestion.

  71. Please, don’t we pay enough taxes, nothing is free. I think people who use the service should pay something towards it. A small increase in taxes and keeping the fares reasonable is the way to go. Senior citizens are not being thought of in any of this.

  72. I will confess that the recent fare increase tipped me over the edge into driving to work 2 out of the 4 days I commute. It saves me $40 a month in fares and that matters in my budget. It also saves me a couple hours a week — I have to leave more time as the T becomes less reliable, and I pay by the hour for child care. So that saves me another $160 a month, at least. The combination of unpredictable service and expensive fares just makes taking the T impractical.

    I am a long-time die-hard transit rider, out of personal preference and environmental concern. I’ve planned every job and home for the past 25 years around being able to use transit. So when I finally find myself turning to my car (which used to sit in the driveway except for weekend excursions), I know others must be too.

    So, yes. I totally buy the idea that reducing fares would increase ridership, with all the benefits that entails to the whole city. It would get me back on the trains, especially if paired with improvements. And you are right that the fares have risen much faster than inflation. When I first moved here decades ago, the T felt “practically free” even when I held a low-wage job. Now it’s a serious line item in the budget, which is why it’s getting cut.

    Thanks for your work on this. I loved the way transit worked in this city when I first moved here and the current situation makes me sad.

  73. How about getting behind MA H.935/S.579, which would create a Massachusetts Public Bank that would allow the State to leverage the credit-worthiness of its very own tax payers (most of us do pay our taxes on time every year, didn’t you know?) to refinance the Big Dig’s debt (which as you should know was foisted off on the MBTA in an act of supreme cynicism) at much better rates than we’re ever going to get out of Wall Street? Just sayin’ …

  74. The subways and bus lines need more capacity. One way to get that is by getting those riders who can to time shift. Perhaps lower fares / passes for off peak times would help. I’d also like to see a system where cost of the ride is proportional to the length of the ride. That would require new entry / exit turnstiles however.

  75. I like the idea of eliminating the fares on buses. Doing so helps poor people and makes their commutes faster.

  76. I agree with the general idea, but this needs careful thought. Some subway and bus lines are already at capacity at rush hour; for those MBTA could very sensibly raise fares to raise revenue to increase capacity or improve reliability. I think most current subway riders would be willing to pay a little more if the service really would improve. My impression is that commuter rail is underutilized (at least the tracks are underutilized) in part due to high fares, so it would make a lot of sense to reduce fares. But to see significant ridership increase beyond what get now will require other changes too, e.g. more train cars, more parking lot capacity at train stations or park-and-ride lots, maybe more or longer train platforms to handle the capacity. Gas tax and Uber tax have merit on their own for reducing emissions and congestion, but best in long run might be if state could capture some of the value associated with property values and new housing developments near transit, and use that to help fund improvements to transit. That way the people and towns that benefit the most from transit pay the most. Certainly people living in towns with virtually no public transit options who are forced to take long drives to get to work will feel it is unfair if they are being taxed more so wealthier people in places like Cambridge can pay less to take the Red Line.

  77. Thank you for this thoughtful post. In light of the severity and immediacy of climate change, we need to doing as much as we can to decarbonize our transportation system, and taking cars off the road–and encouraging public transit–is a vital part of that.

    Pricing schemes for public transit embed an incentive structure. When I lived in DC, the fares were graduated as you went further (even more steeply so now), with peak/off-peak pricing. This is telling people to not use public transit. By contrast, a system like New York’s (or Boston’s) where there is a flat fee no matter how you go encourages people to take it for long trips (provided the service is good–a major qualifier).

    Reducing or eliminating entirely the fares for public transit is a great incentive for people to use it: it makes clear that we *want* people to take this option instead of driving. As you noted, there are also clear equity implications, as well as possible efficiency gains.

    I also appreciate the attention to regional equity. The parts of the state that are much less dense than the Boston metro area will, by virtue of that fact, be more car-dependent, and it is only fair that the money goes to subsidize their public transit systems (PVTA, etc.) and other transportation needs.

    In light of stories after stories of a crumbling MBTA and some of the worst traffic in the country, it’s clear that we need to take action.

  78. It’s wrong to tax everyone for a limited-use system that most ppl can’t tolerate, don’t need, or use for time & distance reasons. It’s just wrong to tax people who would never use the T, and it’s wrong to punish people fed up with rotten taxi drivers & lousy public transport by taxing Lyft/Uber users.

    The T is filthy, always a miserable rider experience, runs too slowly (train & bus), too few busses in our area, and evening bus schedules abandon riders for long stretches. Drivers & staff are usually surly, slow, and clearly hate the public.

    Don’t reward a system that’s limited in range, poorly run & disgusting to use w more cash – care about quality (from inside the org) doesn’t come from money. It comes fr the org’s culture.

    Reallocate funds from elsewhere to reduce fares. Beginning with targeting financial waste by the Pike – take their constantly wasted $. They throw vast amts of OUR $ on road projects aren’t vital, aren’t needed, & that NEVER end.

    In sum, this problem won’t be solved by more taxes. It WILL be solved by setting incentives for Org. efficiency, high standards of care & cleanliness, more frequent service, and paying for that by reallocating funds fr elsewhere, particularly from hot spots of high wasteful spending.

    No raises for leadership, too, if they don’t start producing excellence in their staff, scheduling, and rider experience.

    1. Yes. “In sum, this problem won’t be solved by more taxes. It WILL be solved by setting incentives for Org. efficiency, high standards of care & cleanliness, more frequent service, and paying for that by reallocating funds fr elsewhere, particularly from hot spots of high wasteful spending.”
      The transition of urban dense commuters to more transit from solo-car-commuting, requires a management of transit that supports and motivates the work driving the buses, and maintaining the visual impression of transit.

  79. Gasoline taxes are regressive and would punish Western Mass. residents to benefit Boston. Uber should be further regulated and have to pay for the infrastructure it benefits from – there is no question about that. The fares on the T should not be reduced since the system continues to require substantial investment.

  80. Yes… improved access across the area will advantage many dynamics…price drop must be dramatic and/but service has to also become good and reliable… Consider taxing commercial parking.

  81. Agree. Also think even more aggressive over time is critical. Not just a one time fixed tax, but rising each year, or every 3 years.
    Accompanying the tax, a station, transit vehicle especially buses, and tracks should attract riders, not repel them. Consider the hype about cars and their comforts, their visual appeal, even highways. Route 2 has been largely repaved toward and beyond 128, velvet smooth. Consider the comfort of your ride on any bus, redline car, or commuter rail coach. Consider what you see on the surfaces, many times trash on the floor. Consider what Grand Central Station in NYC looks like, a cathedral to transit.

    1. Consider how a technology or biomedical employer treat their employees—the office space that is attractive.

  82. Nothing is ever free, someone else has to pay for it. I do agree that there needs to be some “hold harmless” to ever rising fares policy. I think taxes should be aligned between beneficiaries and the burdened. That would point to a rise in gas tax and tolls, but the more equitable would be income taxes (corporate as well as individual). I am faced with paying 27% of my income on property taxes. I looked at our town budget an 78% goes to schools. That means I am paying 19% of my income to educate someone else’s child’s upscale education who is of no benefit to me. Now I don’t think this was intentional when it was originally designed. The town is aware of this. so they are pushing property tax deferral, but what they are not aware of is seniors who take advantage of this (two owners) will put the surviving spouse in danger of being fully liable for paying the entire balance as well as a 16% usury interest rate due at title change. Small wonder why I am totally dependent on the T to get around (and we do not have Sunday service). Gave up luxuries like cable, smartphones, automobiles, home heat during the fall and spring (My internet access is through public library).

    I would like to leave you with one important concept. Revenue not collected by fares is replaced by another source. Who is being burdened by it, and are they are being subsidized without paying for it (like employers in the central city etc.) The productivity books must be kept in balance.

  83. Why doesn’t anyone point out that going fare-free saves us money. Right now we have to spend money on creating Charlie Cards and the system that parsed them, install & maintain fare gates at every station, spend money planning fare gates into every new station and remodel and spend more money for people to collect fares, count them and deliver them. And we burn energy and waste time on the green line and buses waiting for everyone to pay their fare while boarding.

    With a fare-free system all of those costs go away. That also means we have more money to spend on improving service. Currently, we must spend some percentage of revenue on fare machines & the related services. Without fares we can pour 100% of revenue into improving service. So fare-free is cheaper to the commonwealth as a whole, more efficient and even improves service immediately by reducing boarding times.

  84. No new taxes, please! Do not think that folks will take the T more often if fares are reduced.

  85. If there is an increase in a gas tax, why would it be necessary for rideshare passengers to pay an additional $1.00? Perhaps the taxis’ should also be charged the $1.00 as well, and limo passengers should pay $2.00. Maybe the gas tax should stand on its own.
    Instead of lowering the fares immediately or at all, any extra money from the gas tax should be segregated and used only for repairs and improvements and not for increases in pay, pension, or salaries. If the trains were in better condition, ran on time( maybe we need to hire some transit people from Japan, not kidding). Riders would not need a fare decrease, and they would want to take the train, instead of a fare decrease, perhaps a fare freeze for a while.

  86. I like the part of your proposal to eliminate bus fares as I believe it would help low income individuals. I think any gas tax is unfair. I rather target increases in Mass Pike tolls from 495 into the city, surcharges to city parking garages & parking meters and new car / new car lease fees. I have mixed feelings on Uber / Lyft surcharges. Many people have been able to eliminate their cars with these services. I am on the road a lot less than I used to be. If you pursue, I would wave for carpool service and add higher fee from airport.

  87. Thanks for your work on this. I say yes to these funding ideas and to more bus lanes (but not to free fares). Might a congestion tax work here as well? And to address the convenience issue (or lack of it), high-density zoning near T and rail stations and more reasonably-priced parking near stations in the ‘burbs. Maybe increase the discount on passes to reduced the number of cash customers – and the boarding delays?

  88. I understand the ramifications of this tax but I feel that it would penalize and place an unfair burden on the commuter that does not have access to public transportation and needs the use of a car to get to a workplace.

  89. Since most ridership is directly related to commercial activity, increases in corporate taxes are prudent. Commuting is the #1 activity, and lost productivity related to poor service hurts business. Shopping and other revenue-generation is another major traffic stream, and we want to encourage local spending vs. click-purchase dollars going out of state. We all benefit when our teachers, healthcare and public-safety workers can get to and from work on time. A tiered fare structure may help with equity. Fares for professional workforce should be subsidized either directly by employers or by corporate tax increases. Overall, we must avoid burdening riders with these increased costs as they are the source of productivity or revenue that businesses and the public need to function.

  90. Will, your spreadsheet shows that cross-subsidies are very expensive ways to get more riders on the T: each new bus trip would cost more than $5. All the studies show small ridership increases with fare decreases (i.e., small price elasticities). The subsidies are not only likely to be ineffective, it would be difficult to remove them later. Targeted service improvements would be a better use of any extra tax money to generate more ridership.
    The evidence indicates T fares are actually pretty reasonable, they are well below those in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and many other cities. It would also be be inefficient to grant across-the-board fare decreases to existing users (like me) when the T is so starved for resources.

  91. If funds from the 9c gas tax go back to Western Massachusetts, they aren’t available to the T. You can’t spend the same revenue twice.

    Also, how do MBTA fares compare to other mass transit systems around the country?

    1. Right. Funds from Greater Boston would go the MBTA. Funds from Western MA would go to their transit authorities.

      It’s hard to compare fares directly, because you are getting different services and traveling different systems. The common metric is the farebox recovery ratio — how much of the total costs of the system are paid by fares. Our current fare recovery ratios not out of line from the rest of the country. Most North American transit systems have fare recovery ratios under 50%. We are at 30%.

  92. I think the Commuter Rail fares need to be adjusted to reflect actual cost. On the Worcester/Framingham line, the fare from Worcester to South Station (40 miles) is $12.25. The fare from West Newton to South Station (10 miles) is $7.00. I take the commuter rail from West Newton and, not only am I paying more than double the per-mile cost, every other train is a Worcester train that doesn’t even stop in West Newton.

  93. Some routes are overcrowded and a fare decrease will only make things worse. Try taking the Red Line from South Station to Harvard Square during evening rush hour and then the 71 bus from Harvard Square to Watertown. Both rides are already standing room only. We need more trains/buses more than we need a fare reduction – at least for many routes.

  94. Why such an effort to penalize Uber/Lyft riders? I’ve suffered through many years of substandard taxi service in the Boston area. One time an angry driver pounded on the dashboard and yelled at me because he picked me up at the airport and I wasn’t going far enough to make it worth his while waiting in the long taxi line there. Another time, when I made arrangements to be picked up in the early morning to go to the airport, the driver showed up very late because he went to Bartlett Ave in Belmont instead of Bartlett St in Watertown. With Uber/Lyft, I know exactly what the ride is going to cost in advance and I know exactly when the driver is going to show up. Cab companies could have added technology like this any time they wanted, but they did not and they couldn’t even get some of the basics right, like showing up on time at the right address and being courteous. If you’re going to add a $1 surcharge to Uber/Lyft then add it to taxi rides also.

  95. Raising the per-gallon gas tax is absolutely the first place to start, both fiscally and environmentally. Current Federal gas tax is about $0.81/gal. Nationally, state gas taxes range from 15 cents (Alaska) to 61 cents (California). Mass. gas tax of 26.5 cents/gal. is slightly below the state gas tax median of 30 cents.

    Combined Fed and State Mass. gas tax: 18 cents + 26.5 cents is 44.5 cents. That one-sixth (17%) when gas is $2.67 per gallon. 9 cents more is 3% more at $3.00 per gallon, 3.3% more at $2.67 per gallon. Given the exorbitant cost of maintaining Mass. roads (repairs at night at overtime rates for heavily traveled roads, plowing and salting in winter, bridge maintenance and replacement, regular police patrol, emergency responses), it should be more, on its own merits, even without spending more on public transit.

    A vehicle that’s driven 15,000 miles per year and gets 30 miles per gallon uses 500 gallons of gas per year. 9 cents more per gallon is another $45 per year, not exactly a deal-breaker for anyone who drives that much.

    For years, I have done reverse commutes on major highways in and out of Boston (my job locations and hours make taking public transit infeasible). Twice a day, I’ve watched long, slow lines of traffic crawl in one direction while I travel at high speed the other way. The number of hours per day that congestion slows drivers significantly (below 30 MPH) is increasing. Adding lanes doesn’t work; build more, and more people will drive.

    The $15 billion spent on replacing the Green Monster in Boston was necessary, because it was crumbling, but also a failure, because it simply moved the congestion locations further north and sourth, e.g. to the intersection of Rts. 93 and 128.

    So, on its own merits, a 9-cent increase in the gas tax is merited.

    However, and this is a big HOWEVER, some other things need to change:

    1) MBTA Pension reform. The T pension system is independent, underfunded, mismanaged, and provides inferior returns to what other pension systems are getting. The Legislature has been kicking this can down the road for years. Both on its own merits and in the context of spending gas tax money on public transit, it needs to be fixed. It is -not- reasonable to tax drivers to pay excessive pension benefits, and fiscal conservatives and anti-taxers will use this to defeat any gas tax increase.

    2) A consistent and sufficient maintenance and capital planning budget. T Manager Steve Poftak’s plan to spend $8-10 billion in improvements is an attempt to catch up on decades of underfunding of capital spending on T infrastructure (transit equipment, rails, wires, power supplies, signaling and communications, bridges, supporting walls, lots of other). Public goods like water and transportation infrastructure are chronically underfunded; they’re not popular, easiest to cut; and can be postponed (until they can’t).

    Once the T catches up, it needs a consistent source of capital funding for ongoing maintenance that is sufficient to maintain the T’s entire network and that does -not- depend on ridership. Concrete, roads, rails and bridges deteriorate at a relatively constant rates, regardless of ridership. Deferred maintenance is like deferring credit card payments – convenient but costly. And, as Click and Clack used to say, “It’s the stingy man that pays the most.”

    The easiest way to increase T ridership and get people out of their cars are to make service faster and more reliable for people who would prefer to use the T, but work in situations that don’t give them the flexibility needed to deal with the T’s currently lousy service. People who work on shifts, who have to relieve other people at fixed times, who have to pick up their kids from daycare on time or face fines for being late, eventually they give up on the T and start driving.

    3) An overall state transportation plan that deals with multiple transportation issues. Replacing the Mass. Turnpike viaduct will cost at least $1 billion. Ditto replacing the Bourne and Sagamore bridges to the Cape. How many smaller, but still big-ticket items are there?

    4) I agree with Gov. Baker’s comment that the T should create fix its existing service before expanding. I’m opposed to expanding commuter rail service to Providence or New Bedford; that will require high subsidies for relatively few riders, and will face the inherent drawbacks of running commuter rail on rails owned and used by other parties with different schedules (Amtrak or CSX). I would strongly prefer that the T improve the quantity and quality of existing service, beyond current schedules, first.

    5) Equity across the state. I taught in Springfield for 3 years, and the “rich east, poor west (west of 495)” divide across the state persists, both in perception and reality. If I lived in Springfield, I’d be opposed to what I’m advocating here; how would it help me. Other parts of the state need proportionate improvements.

    In conclusion, let’s realize that by definition, public transit is publicly subsidized and loses money. That’s why it’s public; it’s necessary, and profit-making operators can not and will not provide equivalent service except at rates far above what most people would pay. As ridership increases, so will losses. The question is not whether to accept losses, but how to reduce them wherever possible, and how to fund them.

    1. Thanks, Aram.

      All thoughtful points as usual.

      FYI, regarding the MBTA pension system, unfortunately, the legislature’s hands are tied by federal law. When the major urban carriers all went bankrupt in the 40s and became public, the existing union contracts were defined as federally protected rights. Not that they can’t be modified, but only through collective bargaining. So, the T pension system is whatever the T and its unions negotiate.

  96. I like the idea of getting some of the incremental time lost on bus stops back through eliminating collections. It would be great if there is a way to measure the gain to the economy through that. If people can get to work easier, with less stress in terms of payment, I assume that helps productivity, benefiting the region.

    Some years ago I think it was beyond Kenmore Square that the Green Line, Outbound, was free. Some changes like that might also help keep a fare structure but give cost-cutting possibilities for commuters.

    I would be curious what the MBTA and others can and do measure in terms of these things. Cost is obviously a major/key measure, it needs to be feasible. I assume we also measure air pollution reduction, as well as traffic congestion. Do they have ways to measure economic productivity improvements, things like that which could compound over time and improve the tax-base? I wonder if some solutions might look expensive over a year or two, but save massive amounts over 5 years plus, for example.

  97. I fully support this idea. I think it is great, and I wish it can happen. Please please continue this work.

  98. I am not against the gas tax or Uber/Lyft tax, but I agree with some of above that main issue is the quality and reliability of the T even more than the cost. This needs addressing, with moneys going to improve the T first and foremost.

  99. I think we definitely need to raise the gas tax. Gas in Southern California where we are right now is $4.17 per gallon — $1.80 more than I paid last week at home. We certainly can afford to pay 9 cents more. And I agree that the money should go to the MBTA and other mass transit, especially commuter rail. But I would not use it all for lower fares. Maybe half for fare decreases and half for improving and expanding service.

  100. Not all Uber rides are the same. Add a rush hour surcharge to solo Uber rides. Do not add this to shared or Pool rides.

    There is another type of commuter who is very common yet rarely comments on topics like this one. These are drivers who could take the T. Commute times might be the same or faster with the T but they just prefer their cars.

    Other states already have congestion tolling during peak hours.

    Keep in mind that monthly commuter parking runs $525-$625 in downtown Boston. Many garages downtown have additional capacity.

    So many cars downtown during rush hour are occupied by one driver, no passengers. It seems carpooling efforts over the years yield little results.

    The argument that congestion tolling and higher parking fees hurt the working poor doesn’t add up. Nobody earning $12 an hour is paying $600 a month to park plus car ownership costs.

  101. Great topic! I am a visually disabled user of the T (i,e, a no-cost rider) so take my comments with that in mind.
    1) For commuter rail, I note frequent failure to collect fares, especially from student riders. I don’t blame conductors all that much since their first responsibility is getting passengers on and off safely rather than fare collection. The process of making change is just too slow for them to manage at current staffing levels. The answer is probably an electronic system that riders use as they enter a car. In some European countries, fare payment is all-electronic and on the honor system, but inspectors spot-check riders often enough to keep folks honest. The fine for non-payment is $50-$70!
    2) If we are to raise gas taxes statewide, I definitely like the idea of devoting the funds in regionally appropriate ways: road upgrades for rural areas, fare reductions on bus lines to less affluent areas, commuter rail fare reductions for the most distant towns (assuming that folks living there are less affluent than those closer to Boston), and addition of rush hour express buses (instead of fare reductions) for long and slow bus routes like Bedfored-to-Alewife which serves relatively affluent areas.
    3) Rather than lower fares system-wide, I suggest trying a series of 6-month pilot trials. Lower fares by a certain amount on one bus line and set a goal for ridership increase, publicize the change, and see if the experiment works. Try a different amount of fare reduction on a different bus line and see if that works better or worse. Getting real data will help the T and it’s advisors justify whatever changes are eventually made system-wide. We should be strategic and address the most pressing needs of each area, whether it be cost, speed, or parking access. An across-the-board fare cut would not necessarily be the deciding factor in converting non-users into regular users.

  102. Thank you, Will, for all these bulletins and updates on issues of importance, and for asking what we think about things. This is how our government is supposed to communicate with us. I have never felt better informed by ANY state official than by you. (Or by anyone but the President of the United States, historically, except for the last three years).
    Best wishes for a great fall, and keep up the good work! Thanks for all you do.

  103. I love your well thought out analysis and desire to help our income disparity problem. However, public transportation should be framed more as a climate change issue, while our income tax system is the best lever for attacking income disparity. If increasing the income disparity is a major deal breaker, you should consider an income tax increase to subsidize the MBTA. However, if the public transportation system in Boston reached the poor communities better, gas taxes and bus fares wouldn’t be an income disparity discussion.

    1. I totally share your feeling that climate is a top priority and there are some important points to unpack. I’ve modified the statement above in response — see the new box in the Insights from Comments section.

  104. Thank you for your efforts to reduce traffic congestion.Although I find reducing fares across the board attractive as a non-driving commuter, I do not think that would be as effective as targeting
    low-income (including seniors) for fare adjustments and doing everything possible to continue to improve the T-rider experience. Even small things like fixing the pa system which make announcements in the Alewife station inaudible. Something is amiss when train riders sitting on the platform need to log on to the T website to learn that their train will be delayed for 20 minutes because of an accident up the line. Local towns (particularly Belmont) might do more to discourage driving and encourage T use by increasing the burden on cars by ticketing car commuters who are speeding through our streets. Local residents do not speed through their neighborhoods. Speed traps on Prospect and Clifton Streets during the morning and afternoon rush might be something for the town to consider

  105. As a daily bus commuter, I would benefit from free bus rides. However, I don’t support this (we need the revenue for bus-only lanes and improvements to trolley bus wiring or the transition to electric buses). I would support free bus-T tranfers. The current rules have a chilling effect on trips for the low-income commuters who need it the most. One fare should get you anywhere you need to go. Folks who don’t live near the pricier T-accessible neighborhoods are unfairly penalized if they need to take more than one bus or transfer to the T to complete their journey.

  106. On returning the tax to Western Mass. drivers. It’s not a bad idea perhaps if only to avoid giving them another excuse to be disgruntled. But they do have a public transit system in Springfield. They’re also experimenting with intercity rail along the Hartford to Greenfield corridor. So if it made sense to take a gas tax and apply it to lower fares here it might there too, subject to differences in the inputs to your analysis.

    But if I’m reading this right, the best option is to somehow get a gas tax passed and use the income for other CO2 reduction methods with more effect per dollar. It’s harsh perhaps, but having that tax should change the economics of choosing to live where you need to drive long distances often. We can give back in other ways to the people who are struggling the most.

    I remain concerned that electric cars won’t be as good an answer as we’re counting on them to be, that there will be some limiting factor (e.g. mining for battery ingredients or inability to quickly get off of natural gas in favour of renewable energy supplies). I can’t help but think of H2 fuel cell cars and how that went basically nowhere, though obviously electric cars are showing more promise.

  107. IIRC, 5 years ago, voters in this state approved a measure to repeal a gas tax increase that was tied to inflation.
    Why is this even being brought up again when the people have already spoken? What’s different or has changed this time around that this proposal is even being discussed?

    At least the original 2013 legislation spread the increased revenue across all transportation infrastructure… roadways, highways, bridges, tunnels, mass transit. The expected increase only amounted to a cent or so per gallon,
    yet voters still rejected it.

    With that in mind, why would any reasonable person obligingly accept a much bigger tax increase, and one that only rewards MBTA users?

    If this proposal were to pass, it would only serve to undermine the faith and trust we’re expected to have in our legislators to respect the will of the voting public.
    At a minuium, I would expect (and hope), it would result in yet another ballot referendum to repeal the nonsense.

    As a side note, has anyone conducted any study on the impact that ride share bikes (Blue Bikes), and bike lanes have contributed to declining MBTA

    How much more will bus/trolley usage decline if E Scooters are given the green light in this state?

    I realize there’s a big push towards ‘micro mobility’ and reducing carbon emissions, but this seems like a classic example of wanting your cake and eating it too, along with the law of unintended consequences.

  108. Now this?
    Looks like a done deal that was done without a traffic study.
    “ ‘Amazon has not indicated the estimated vehicle trips generated by the operation, but will submit a traffic management plan to the city,’ Arrigo said.
    ‘What they’ve talked about is they have waves of deliveries that happen over the course of a day, with an interest in off-peak hours if there is such a thing now,’ he said.”

  109. There are already a number of programs, e.g. for Boston school students and others, that provide free or discounted T passes paid for in various ways, e.g. the Boston City budget or employers for their staff. I do not know how significant the untapped potential of expanding these programs might be to encourage more use of the T while even increasing its revenues because there would be more paid rides, but the riders themselves would be paying less, or nothing. I realize there are 2nd and higher order effects to consider – e.g. a cost of doing business – but in the broadest context these costs may be outweighed by the benefits from reduced congestion and improving the ability of staff to get to their place of work on time, provided (as other commentators have pointed out) the reliability and frequency of T services are also improved.

  110. Thank you for pursuing this issue, Will. While not a fan of big government, I firmly believe in public transportation, and reducing fares is an excellent idea. If you ride the 57 or 64 bus from Brighton you will find that it is indeed the poorer members of our community who cannot afford a car who ride, especially immigrants. Some city officials have suggested reducing the buses because people will bike or take an Uber. This is foolish. We need the buses and trains, and your ideas to promote them will be a help.

    How about reducing costs at the MBTA by getting rid of all the bureaucrats who get appointments for supporting elected officials? I would love to see you work on this as well!

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