No Fare! MBTA Tight on Public Records

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The MBTA has been attracting a lot of attention lately on how they could save money.  But what about how the MBTA makes money? Pioneer wanted to look into fare collection practices on the commuter rail and revenue information during the MBTA’s contract with Keolis, but it seems we have hit a wall.

Using the public records request service on, Pioneer sent two requests to the MBTA: one on March 12, 2015 for MBTA revenue information from 2014-present, and another on fare collection procedures submitted by Keolis and fare collection fines against Keolis from July 2014-present on June 9, 2015.  Neither request was fulfilled within 10 calendar days, as the Massachusetts Public Records Law requires.  Both required multiple follow-up emails to the MBTA requesting information on the status of the request.

Despite this effort, Pioneer received none of the requested documents.  For the 3/12/15 request on revenue information, we received a reply on 5/20/15 claiming that there were no responsive documents.  Specifically, the letter stated “the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority does not create or retain existing documents responsive to your request and does not maintain this data in a specific database.” That seems far-fetched considering Keolis is obviously generating revenue during their operation of the commuter rail, and especially since the contract between the MBTA and Keolis stipulates that revenue reports be filled out daily.  As for the 6/9/15 request for fare collection procedures and fare collection fines, Pioneer has received no acknowledgement of the request nor a reply.

It seems like with all of the criticism and issues the MBTA has faced recently, this was an easy opportunity for the agency to improve its public image.  But it was an opportunity missed.  Failing to fulfill this public records request is just one more example of the MBTA’s disappointing performance this past year.


Lauren Corvese is a student at Northeastern University working at Pioneer Institute through the Co-op Program.