Transit advocates push for MBTA discounts for low-income residents

BOSTON — In less than a month, MBTA rates are going up for the fourth time since 2012.

So, on Monday, Boston transit advocates asked the MBTA Fiscal Control Board to consider a fare subsidy for low-income riders.

About a dozen residents from Chinatown to Roslindale took the mic hours after an MIT study was released showing the effects of half-priced Charlie Cards on the ridership rates of low-income residents. The study showed ridership increased 30 percent with the subsidy.

"This reinforces that we need a goal of fair, free transportation," Boston City Councillor Michelle Wu (D-At Large) said. "Transportation barriers turn into huge economic barriers for people. It exacerbates income inequality. It exacerbates racial disparities.”

Wu says residents on the Commuter Rail, like those in Readville, will see monthly passes go up nearly $15 to $232 a month.

"We can’t get stuck in this box of trying to make this small budget balance every year," Wu said. "The scale of changes that we need to get our system up to the state of good repair and then to the point at which service levels match people actually need in their day to day lives is far beyond anything that we’re talking about now.”

The fiscal control board will take up the issue for discussion, but its vice chair, Monica Tibbits, agreed with advocates.

"I think the board does have a social responsibility to provide more transit options that are actually available to the public," she said.

Researchers also found low-income riders took more trips to health care and social services than they would without the subsidized Charlie Card.