2016 Fare Increase discussion

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby RailBus63 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:51 pm

I kind of hope that the control board is proposing large fare increases to let riders become outraged and force Beacon Hill to address the debt issue. The state saddled the MBTA with this debt and has forced it to devote an increasingly larger percentage of the authority's operating revenue to pay it off. If the debt was restructured and removed from the MBTA somehow, that would give the T $400 million to improve service and invest in maintenance.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Wed Jan 06, 2016 2:00 pm

RailBus63 wrote:I kind of hope that the control board is proposing large fare increases to let riders become outraged and force Beacon Hill to address the debt issue. The state saddled the MBTA with this debt and has forced it to devote an increasingly larger percentage of the authority's operating revenue to pay it off. If the debt was restructured and removed from the MBTA somehow, that would give the T $400 million to improve service and invest in maintenance.


Agreed. This needs to happen, but I have no confidence whatsoever that anyone running the T is savvy enough to pull it off.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:58 pm

Bramdeisroberts wrote:
RailBus63 wrote:I kind of hope that the control board is proposing large fare increases to let riders become outraged and force Beacon Hill to address the debt issue. The state saddled the MBTA with this debt and has forced it to devote an increasingly larger percentage of the authority's operating revenue to pay it off. If the debt was restructured and removed from the MBTA somehow, that would give the T $400 million to improve service and invest in maintenance.


Agreed. This needs to happen, but I have no confidence whatsoever that anyone running the T is savvy enough to pull it off.


After last night's SNAFU in North Station, riders are already on the rampage.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby typesix » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:36 am

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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby fitch77 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:07 am

Would it make sense to have capacity based pricing by lowering off-peak commuter rail fares, while raising commuter rail fares on the most crowded peak trains?

Off-peak trains usually run with most of the cars empty. I have heard that many people find commuter rail unaffordable, so I think that lowering off-peak fares would increase ridership, offsetting at least some of the revenue decrease per passenger.

This recent Transit Matters blog post http://transitmatters.info/blog/2016/1/31/the-case-against-mbta-fare-increases-and-what-to-do-instead makes a great case for why the MBTA should discount off-peak commuter rail fares, among with other alternatives to the MBTA plan. That blog post has links for contacting MBTA and our elected officials to let them know what you think!
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby saulblum » Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:45 am

fitch77 wrote:This recent Transit Matters blog post http://transitmatters.info/blog/2016/1/31/the-case-against-mbta-fare-increases-and-what-to-do-instead makes a great case for why the MBTA should discount off-peak commuter rail fares, among with other alternatives to the MBTA plan. That blog post has links for contacting MBTA and our elected officials to let them know what you think!


I'd say it's the paltry weekend schedules on the commuter rail that keep riders away more than the fares.

Heavily discount Commuter Rail fares during off-peak periods and on weekends. Chicago and Philadelphia have seen large ridership increases with their $8 unlimited weekend (Chicago) and $12 unlimited (Philadelphia) off-peak passes.


SEPTA runs hourly service on most regional rail lines on the weekends, unlike the T. Take a look, for example, at the Fitchburg line North Station departures on the weekend:

8:35, 11:15, 12:45, 3:00, 4:15, 6:00, 8:00, 11:30

And how much more should peak fares rise?
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby leviramsey » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:18 pm

saulblum wrote:SEPTA runs hourly service on most regional rail lines on the weekends, unlike the T. Take a look, for example, at the Fitchburg line North Station departures on the weekend:

8:35, 11:15, 12:45, 3:00, 4:15, 6:00, 8:00, 11:30

And how much more should peak fares rise?


SEPTA can run hourly service off-peak because their system is nowhere near as extensive as MBTA CR. Increase the distance a line covers (more properly, increase the one-way trip time) by 50% and you basically cut in half the service level you can run with a given budget ("basically" because time to turn and any padding between runs is more or less constant, the shorter the runs, the less time the trains and crews are in revenue service, and also because this is a discretely, as opposed to continuously valued function).

SEPTA lines matched to MBTA lines by distance (I'll exclude the Airport Line), with hourly weekend service to equivalents:

Wilmington/Newark: 38.7 mi <=> Wickford Jct (Providence): 62.9 mi
Paoli/Thorndale: 35.2 mi <=> Fitchburg: 49.6 mi (to be 53.7 mi with Wachusett extension)
Doylestown: 34.4 mi <=> Worcester: 44.2 mi
Trenton: 32.5 mi <=> Newburyport: 36.2 mi
W. Trenton: 32.5 mi <=> Kingston/Plymouth: c. 36 mi (approximation weighted by train movement)
Warminster: 20.1 mi <=> Middleboro/Lakeville: 35.6 mi
Manayunk/Norristown: 18.1 mi <=> Rockport: 35.3 mi
Media/Elwyn: 15.1 mi <=> Haverhill: 33 mi
Chestnut Hill West: 11.3 mi <=> Forge Park (Franklin): 30.3 mi
Fox Chase: 11.1 mi <=> Greenbush: 27.6 mi
Chestnut Hill East: 10.8 mi <=> Lowell: 25.5 mi
Cynwyd: 6.1 mi <=> Stoughton: 18.9 mi (Needham is 13.7 mi and Fairmount is 9.2 mi)

Of course, the more ridership there was on the weekend (weekday off-peaks are a little bit of a different kettle of fish: to a point, labor for weekday off-peaks is free because you needed the labor for the peak runs), the higher the operating budget and the more service could be run. The low ridership is partly the result of low service, but it's more directly caused by low perceived value by riders relative to the fares. Peak travelers see a lot more value for money in commuter rail fares mostly due to road congestion making commuter rail sufficiently time-competitive with driving, so making off-peak fares less than peak fares (whether that's by raising peak fares, cutting off-peak fares, or both) is, to my mind a good idea.

My suite of fare changes involving CR would probably include:

* Raise the cash-on-board surcharge to $6
* Charge the cash-on-board surcharge on peak-direction trains at all stations unless the rider is over 55/under 18 to encourage the purchase of passes
* Cash-on-board transactions round up to the nearest dollar
* Implement off-peak discounts by allowing Interzone tickets to be used on off-/reverse-peak trains to zone 1A
* Reduce single-ride ticket validity periods to 72 hours
* 10 ride tickets for cost of 9 single rides (valid for 30 days)
* 20 ride tickets for cost of 17 single rides (valid for 90 days)
* annual passes for the cost of 11 monthly passes
* Maybe: raise Zone fares by $1 across the board, with proceeds going to bus/rapid transit; in turn, activating a Zone mTicket on a phone associated with a CharlieCard deposits the CharlieCard subway fare on the card (this is entirely doable with the current CharlieCard infrastructure)... this is effectively a $1 paper ticket surcharge and a fare cut for users of mTickets who transfer to bus or subway (this would not affect passes, though the $10/month mTicket pass discount would go away with the ability to link with CharlieCards)

For a rider between zones 1 and 1A, the effective fares would be (with my last change):

Cash-on-board single (peak/off-peak): $13.00 / $4.00
Cash-on-board round-trip (peak / off-peak): $20.00 / $7.00 ($10.00 / $3.50 per ride)
Cash-on-board 10-trip (peak / off-peak): $67.00 / $30.00 ($6.70 / $3.00 per ride)
Cash-on-board 20-trip (peak / off-peak): $121.00 / $56.00 ($6.05 / $2.80 per ride)
Prepurchase single (peak/off-peak): $6.75 / $3.25 [Prepurchase includes paper and mTicket users who don't use subway or bus]
Prepurchase round-trip (peak/off-peak): $13.50 / $6.50 ($6.75 / $3.25 per ride)
Prepurchase 10-trip (peak / off-peak): $60.75 / $29.25 ($6.08 / $2.93 per ride)
Prepurchase 20-trip (peak / off-peak): $114.75 / $55.25 ($5.74 / $2.77 per ride)
mTicket w/ subway/bus single, effective (peak / off-peak): $4.65 / $3.25
mTicket w/ subway/bus round-trip, effective (peak / off-peak): $9.30 / $6.50 ($4.65 / $3.25 per ride)
mTicket w/ subway/bus 10-trip, effective (peak / off-peak): $39.75 / $29.25 ($3.98 / $2.93 per ride)
mTicket w/ subway/bus 20-trip, effective (peak / off-peak): $72.75 / $55.25 ($3.64 / $2.77 per ride)
Monthly pass (peak / off-peak): $182 / $105 (14 / 27 cash-on-board single fares, plus subway and bus)
Annual pass (peak / off-peak): $2,002 / $1,155 (154 / 289 cash-on-board single fares, plus subway and bus)
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby The EGE » Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:46 pm

That's an incredibly steep penalty for cash-on-board fares, considering that at many stations it is not possible to buy a ticket otherwise without a smartphone (which not everyone has, for a variety of reasons). A surcharge should only be charged if it is easy to buy with cash or credit card - either with fare machines at the station or a nearby retailer.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby leviramsey » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:32 pm

The EGE wrote:That's an incredibly steep penalty for cash-on-board fares, considering that at many stations it is not possible to buy a ticket otherwise without a smartphone (which not everyone has, for a variety of reasons). A surcharge should only be charged if it is easy to buy with cash or credit card - either with fare machines at the station or a nearby retailer.


Nearly everybody between 18-55 has a smartphone, especially if they're riding commuter rail at rush hour into Boston (those being the only people I'd charge the surcharge for outside of stations where the surcharge currently applies). Even for those riders, they could purchase multiple tickets without incurring the surcharge: for a Newtonville rider, a 20-ride ticket good for 90 days would work out to only a very slight increase per ride over current single-ride tickets. Alternatively, they could move their trip outside the peak box. Further, peak trains have a distinct tendency to get crowded in the inner zones to the point that fare collection is impeded (which only really affects the cash-on-board riders; a software change to mTicket to only allow ticket activations within 10 minutes of a scheduled stop (perhaps with a policy that trains picking up passengers more than 10 minutes late are free) would have a similar effect for mTicket): if there's a 50/50 chance of a peak Newtonville rider not having their ticket checked (which, considering how crowded trains can get on the Framingham/Worcester line, is eminently believable), that basically cancels out the surcharge (and the surcharge effectively becomes less the further and further out you go). A $6 cash-on-board surcharge is, in comparison to other systems worldwide, minuscule: Caltrain's is about $240, for example.

Depending on the LAZ contract (e.g. does LAZ pay a set amount for the rights to the entire parking pile?), parking at the MBTA-controlled park-and-rides (what the towns and MART etc. do is up to them) should increase more dramatically quickly than the associated fares; a factor of 5 (5% fare increase => 50% parking fee increase) seems reasonable at first blush.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby leviramsey » Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:01 pm

leviramsey wrote:Nearly everybody between 18-55 has a smartphone, especially if they're riding commuter rail at rush hour into Boston (those being the only people I'd charge the surcharge for outside of stations where the surcharge currently applies).


Smartphone penetration rates as of 2015, according to Pew

18-29: 85%
30-49: 79%
50-64: 54%
65+: 27%

Urban: 68%
Suburban: 66%

<$30k: 50%
$30k - $50k: 71%
$50k - $75k: 72%
$75k+: 84%

I'd hazard a guess that at least 90% of CR riders on peak-direction trains between the ages of 18 and 55 have smartphones: one of the major selling points of commuter rail over driving is that you can use devices like a smartphone or tablet (or laptop) while you commute, so it stands to reason that people with such devices would be more likely than those without them to use commuter rail. Further, the sorts of jobs that peak-time commuter rail is best at getting people to (Downtown, Back Bay, arguably Longwood or Kendall) are the jobs where at least one of "pays $75,000 or more a year" or "worker under 30" tend to be true.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby MBTA3247 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:59 pm

leviramsey wrote:A $6 cash-on-board surcharge is, in comparison to other systems worldwide, minuscule: Caltrain's is about $240, for example.

$240 is not a surcharge; that's a fine for fare evasion. Caltrain's website makes no mention of allowing tickets to be bought on-board.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby saulblum » Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:22 am

MBTA3247 wrote:$240 is not a surcharge; that's a fine for fare evasion. Caltrain's website makes no mention of allowing tickets to be bought on-board.


That's because all Caltrain stations have ticket machines, so there's no need to buy a fare on-board.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby saulblum » Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:29 am

leviramsey wrote:Nearly everybody between 18-55 has a smartphone, especially if they're riding commuter rail at rush hour into Boston (those being the only people I'd charge the surcharge for outside of stations where the surcharge currently applies).


There should never be a policy that penalizes riders for not having a specific piece of technology, and while I can't cite any statute, I'd hazard a guess that such a fare policy would be illegal.

"But, Mr. Conductor, Verizon's network is down this morning and I can't buy my ticket. You're going to charge me $6 extra?!"

Besides, are conductors going to now be checking licenses to determine a rider's age?
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby leviramsey » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:35 am

MBTA3247 wrote:
leviramsey wrote:A $6 cash-on-board surcharge is, in comparison to other systems worldwide, minuscule: Caltrain's is about $240, for example.

$240 is not a surcharge; that's a fine for fare evasion. Caltrain's website makes no mention of allowing tickets to be bought on-board.


It's exactly the same thing in every important respect. Board a Caltrain without buying a ticket beforehand and the conductor checks you, you're paying at least $240 plus whatever the fare is. Board an MBTA CR train at BBY without buying a ticket beforehand right now and the conductor checks you, you pay $3 plus whatever the fare is. The MBTA conductor gives you a ticket receipt, the Caltrain conductor gives you a citation which you can pay later.

For the record, every passenger I saw on my Littleton train last night had a smartphone.
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Re: 2016 Fare Increase discussion

Postby saulblum » Tue Feb 02, 2016 12:01 pm

leviramsey wrote:
MBTA3247 wrote:It's exactly the same thing in every important respect. Board a Caltrain without buying a ticket beforehand and the conductor checks you, you're paying at least $240 plus whatever the fare is. Board an MBTA CR train at BBY without buying a ticket beforehand right now and the conductor checks you, you pay $3 plus whatever the fare is. The MBTA conductor gives you a ticket receipt, the Caltrain conductor gives you a citation which you can pay later.

For the record, every passenger I saw on my Littleton train last night had a smartphone.


You earlier advocated for: "Charge the cash-on-board surcharge on peak-direction trains at all stations unless the rider is over 55/under 18 to encourage the purchase of passes …".

No one has a problem with a surcharge at BOS, BON, BBY, where ticket machines are plentiful.

But you'd like passengers to be penalized at locations where there's no way to buy a ticket other than using a phone.

Caltrain provides ticket machines at every station, so your comparison fails.

And for the record, three passengers on this morning's Fitchburg run bought round trips from the conductor. I'm sure they'd gleefully fork over a surcharge.
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