T credits Charlie Card with halting fare jumpers (Feb 2007)
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff | February 9, 2007
The introduction of the Charlie Card has boosted MBTA revenues significantly, as the automated system makes it more difficult for riders to avoid paying fares.
The T, which previously projected that the new system would boost revenues 3 percent, now expects a jump of 9 percent -- or about $21 million -- in fare collections by the end of this fiscal year, June 30.
That increase is over and above the 25 percent fare increase that took place Jan. 1, MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said. "The numbers that we have seem to indicate strongly that fare evasion was greater throughout the system than we thought," he said.
The effort to curb fare evasion is being helped by additional security cameras , new, higher fare gates, and more T "ambassadors," who assist passengers in learning the new pay method but also are alert to people trying to jump the gates.
T officials yesterday declined to release January revenue numbers, saying they had yet to tabulate them. But the December figures show revenues up 7.5 percent over December 2005, with the T taking in $27.5 million.
T officials said that their statistics also show that the CharlieCard is quickly being adopted as the way to ride the T. Some 575,000 of the plastic fare cards were in circulation last month. And for the first time in the T's history last month, credit and debit card transactions accounted for more than 40 percent of revenue. That's money up front for the cash-starved T, which has the most debt of any transit agency in the nation.
"We have exceeded our expectations for the first 30 days," said Grabauskas.
T riders are adopting the new technology largely because the CharlieCard offers the lowest fares. On Jan. 1, subway fares rose to $1.70 from $1.25 and bus fares to $1.25 from 90 cents. Those using the paper CharlieTickets or paying with cash are charged more.
The new automated fare collection system, however, has not been without problems, including faulty smart cards and vending machines that took riders' money but issued nothing back.
Members of the T Riders Union, a rider advocacy group, have said the new fare system could also force some of the T's most loyal riders to pay the surcharge because they can't easily get to a vending machine to load money on to a CharlieCard.
Based on the statistics released yesterday, by the end of January, 86 percent of T riders were using CharlieCards and 14 percent used CharlieTickets or paid cash and had to pay the surcharge. Grabauskas hopes to lower the percentage of people who rely on the paper tickets in the next several months.
Fewer riders use the CharlieCard on weekends on the Green Line and buses, apparently because they are infrequent riders.
The Blue Line, the first to get the new technology, was the most CharlieCard-savvy subway line with 95 percent of riders using it .
Globe correspondent Dan Muse contributed to this report.