MBTA postpones fare gates deployment in commuter rail platforms
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will wait until 2021 to make it coincide with the installation of the all-electronic payment


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is postponing its plan to install new fare gates in commuter rail platforms. The reason is the all-electronic payment system scheduled for 2021. The transport agency believes it makes more sense to wait and deploy both systems at the same time.

Fare gates were scheduled for early this fall. Keolis, the French company that operates the Commuter Rail for MBTA, initially said they would install the fare gates this year. Later, they would remodel them to accept  “tap-in” payments from smartphones and credit cards.

However, in the recent months, MBTA and Keolis decided it did not make sense to have two separate projects. Consequently, the fare gates deployment is postponed until 2021. “If we do fare gates, we will do it as part of the new fare collection system,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack stated.


Action against fare evasion

Fare gates were supposed to be put up at North, South and Back Bay stations. Similar to those used in the subway system, fare gates would require riders to prove they have paid for a ticket before boarding. Thus, they would help cutting down fare evasion, estimated to cost millions of dollars annually.

Currently, conductors collect fares during the trip. However, they sometimes run out of time. During rush hour, especially, train cars are often so crowded that inspectors cannot check all passengers for tickets. “We want to improve and modernize the infrastructure for checking tickets to make it easier for conductors to do their jobs” said David Mitrou, a vice president at Keolis Commuter Services. “Also, to make it more clear to passengers that having a ticket is critical to boarding or riding the trains,”


MBTA’s new payment system

MBTA will implement a new fare system by 2021. The installation will be progressive in time. Tests will start in 2019 and new equipment will be deployed in 2020. It is expected that by 2021, old fare equipment will be taken out of service. This will end the use of cash payments collected on vehicles.

With this new system, riders will tap their fare card, smartphone or credit card to fare readers when they enter and exit trains or stations to determine the cost of their trip.