Mass. Leaders Push For Free T As 'Apology' To Riders

A sign warning riders about changes on the Orange Line. Photo: Karyn Regal/WBZ NewsRadio

BOSTON (State House News Service) — A constellation of elected officials from Congress down to the local level have gained little traction so far with their calls for the MBTA to halt charging fares across the entire system when the Orange Line and part of the Green Line go offline for extended periods.

With the list of prominent public figures backing a fare-free period growing, both Gov. Charlie Baker and leaders at the MBTA that he oversees continue to point to more limited options eliminating costs on riders most directly affected by the Orange Line upheaval.

"There are a lot of people who are going to be pursuing the same path they would pursue anyway, you know," Baker said Tuesday when asked if he would make the T entirely free during the closures. "I assume they'll do the same thing they typically do."

The network of shuttle buses that will replace Orange Line subway service in two legs, one from Oak Grove in Malden to Government Center in Boston and the other from Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain to Boston's Copley station, will allow all passengers to board and disembark without any fare.

And on the commuter rail lines that will stop at several Orange Line stations, riders simply need to flash a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket -- even if the pass does not have any value on it -- in Zones 1, 1A or 2.

In a Tuesday press release alongside transit activists, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Rep. Christine Barber of Somerville all called on the Baker administration to wipe out fares for the full MBTA system during the shutdown.

"The shutdown demonstrates the extreme importance of public transportation for everyone: riders, drivers, cyclists, businesses, the economy, and our air and climate. Recent disasters have steeply eroded confidence in the system, but we need to rebuild ridership for everyone' s benefit. Free fares for everyone will help with that," Jehlen said. "Free fares will signal gratitude and an apology to those riders who have stuck with public transportation through multiple disasters, many of whom have no real alternative."

Written by Chris Lisinski, SHNS

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