Love It When the T Listens!

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It seems MBTA officials were listening to this March segment of Bloomberg Radio’s Bay State Business. During the program, I was discussing simple ways to increase MBTA revenue without imposing an across-the-board fare hike.

Raising fares may make sense in some scenarios, but where there is excess capacity, increasing ridership is a far more effective solution to reduce operating deficits.  You don’t jack up the prices of a product that isn’t selling.

The example I presented was weekend commuter rail fares.  My family of four, which includes two teenage boys, would pay a total of $78 for the round trip between Boston and Framingham on a Saturday.  That’s $9.50 each way for all four of us plus $4 for parking.  And then there was the cost to ride the T once we got there.  It would be far cheaper for us to forego the many benefits of public transportations and drive in, paying for gas, turnpike tolls and parking.

During the segment, I recommended that the MBTA reduce weekend commuter rail fares. Every train that travels through downtown Framingham with mostly empty seats represents thousands of dollars in lost revenue that would fall directly to the bottom line because the T incurs limited or no incremental cost for each additional passenger.

I was thrilled to read that the T is undertaking a pilot program to do just that.  Let’s hope the plan comes to fruition.

Sometimes simple solutions are the best ones.