MBTA’s new ticketing system could cost the state $ 30 million, the report says

MBTA plans to unveil a $ 935 million ticketing system that will allow riders contactless boarding using fares, credit or debit cards or phone payments – but which could also soften an additional $ 30 million a year.

“The new ticket collection system was designed to reduce ticket evasion,” said Greg Sullivan, author of the study and Pioneer Institute’s research director for the system, which would be supported by 100 employees. “The problem is that when you do the math, you realize very quickly that the amount you save by (hiring staff) is not as great as the cost of doing it.”

He explained that the system, which was to debut in 2023, would be particularly porous on the green line and on buses, where potential ticket evaders would simply not print their payments on the reader if they did not board in front of the car. The new system will cost MBTA an estimated $ 20 million to $ 30 million in fare evasion, Sullivan said.

To combat this, staff hired to enforce ticket evasion will cost an estimated $ 10-12 million a year, the report said. This, combined with a $ 50 fine and the threat to suspend renewal of evasion licenses, could reduce the loss of fare by $ 14 million to $ 22 million annually.

The Pioneer Institute estimates that even if MBTA’s estimates are correct, the organization will still lose $ 8 million to $ 11 million to avoid fare each year. Adding an additional enforcement cost would cost T up to $ 23 million annually in revenue losses and expenses.

The former tax and management control agency, which Governor Charlie Baker set up in 2015 to monitor T and Sunset last year, had previously proposed lowering the ticket price to $ 25. If this were the case, T considers it necessary to double the cost of enforcement personnel. In this scenario, the new ticketing system would cost up to $ 30 million a year, higher than the original evasion costs if staff were not hired.

“To enforce the system, you have to add the costs to the courts and the hearings – people have to have the right to appeal,” Sullivan said. “So it’s going to be a gigantic problem to have a system that works.”

The new tariff system will be similar to existing payment platforms in cities such as London and Chicago. Both cities have introduced a more robust system to combat ticket evasion by placing gates at regular exit stations that require riders to go out to leave.

The commuter rail system will have a similar port infrastructure in place at the busiest stations: South Station, Back Bay and North Station. The commuter train reports that 90% of its trips either start or end at one of these stations.

Similarly, 52% of Green Line tours start or end at one of the 13 gated stations in downtown Boston, including North Station and Park Street, so Sullivan recommends installing gates there to cut down on price evasion and save staff costs.

Still, Sullivan said he is excited about the new system. “It’s a state-of-the-art ticketing system that replaces a really worn, dysfunctional system,” he said, “it will be very popular with commuters.”

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