To deter people from getting free rides on the T, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is working on legislation that would enforce tougher penalties for those who sneak onto trains without paying.
“Working with the legislature, the MBTA will be seeking to make amendments to the current law, and allow the MBTA to increase the fines associated with the noncriminal citation for violators who fail to pay or prepay the required fare,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, in an email interview.
Over the past few years, the number of noncriminal fare evasion citations has increased from 818 citations in 2007 to 3,248 last year, Pesaturo said.
“The increase in the fines should serve as a significant deterrent to those deliberately not purchasing the required fare to use the MBTA system,” he said.
Although weekly ridership hit a record high in November, the MBTA has been struggling with increased debt since 2010, when its deficit hit $160 million.
To level out the deficit, the MBTA last increased fares in 2007, according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group – however, MASSPIRG stopped the T from taking a step to raise fares in 2009.
MASSPIRG, which estimated the MBTA’s financial situation in 2007 with the report “Derailed by Debt,” also recently released a study that showed how crucial public transit is to students and senior citizens in Massachusetts.
Transportation is essential to students, according to the study, because it saves them money on vehicle maintenance, links them to jobs, helps them stay independent and reduces parking congestion.
Some T riders said that they have seen other commuters skip fares and board T trains and buses.
“I know a lot of college students in Boston in general hop the T without paying, but usually it is only when they don’t have money to put on their CharlieCards or they are late and can’t stop to put money on their cards,” said Emily Jackie Zwiebs, a former student at Wheelock College.
Boston University College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Alex Williams said that he knows several people who get on the T without paying.
“It is a serious issue,” Williams said. “Every time a person gets on the T for free, it puts more pressure on the MBTA to raise their ticket prices, which in turn puts more of a burden to those who do pay the fare.”
CAS sophomore Jennifer Ammerman said that at some stops, such as Central Square, it is extremely easy and very popular to walk into the T station behind someone.
“I think that it definitely has two sides to the problem – the T is a very important part of Bostonians’ daily life, and honestly sometimes it is pretty expensive for low-income people to pay $2 each time they ride and completely ridiculous for one mum or father to have to pay almost $10 to get their families through the subway,” she said.
She said that at the same time, it is not right to take advantage of any public transportation system.
“However, I feel like if the T decreased the price of a ride, then it would be more understandable to then act through legislation when people cheat the system,” Ammerman said.