Boston/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on May 23, 2024
MBTA to Introduce Contactless Payments on Boston's Subway and Buses This SummerSource: Wikipedia/Cran32, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The days of fumbling for a Charlie Card may soon be behind Boston commuters as the MBTA has revealed plans to let riders tap in with their phones or credit cards as early as this summer. Acting Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Cook announced the upgrade in fare collection today, promising a "state of the art" system that will incorporate contactless credit cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay into the T's payment options, according to NBC Boston.

Following years of delays and budget overruns that pushed the cost to nearly $1 billion, the first phase of the new system is set to streamline boarding this summer on subway fare gates, buses, and above-ground Green Line trolleys but why the Mattapan Trolley Line will have to wait until the end of the year for these updates remains a puzzle.

The overhaul, which includes new fare vending machines and the eventual expansion to commuter rail and ferries in Spring 2026, aims to renew public trust in Mass transit. In a move to lower costs amid restructuring, the MBTA reduced the project's price tag by $41 million with officials at the agency hoping to restore public confidence through this tech-forward approach.

Alongside infrastructure improvements, the MBTA is also introducing 16 fare engagement officers who, after training in the early winter, will start to enforce payment rules; the penalty for fare evasion will initiate with a warning, escalate to a $50 fine for repeat offenses, and then balloon to $100 for the fifth and any subsequent infractions within a three-year span. For now, traditionalists can take solace in knowing that the agency will still accept Charlie Cards and cash payments, a particularly relevant point given Massachusetts' exploration of fare-free bus service on some of its routes.

Despite the advanced features of the MBTA's plan, it hasn't escaped criticism, especially when juxtaposed with New York City's transit system, which paid Cubic Corporation— the same contractor—a lesser fee of $772 million for a similar product. The T’s new contactless payment system, however, aspires to serve a broader demographic, including those benefiting from reduced fare programs, officials have assured.

Boston-Transportation & Infrastructure