April 20, 2024

Years after public transit advocates pushed for a widespread low-income fare at the MBTA, the agency's board of directors approved a formal plan that will provide a half-price fare option for some Massachusetts riders beginning this summer.

"This is an amazing day," Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt, who long pushed for a low-income fare expansion when she served on the MBTA board's predecessor, said. "This is 10 years in the making."

The program will likely launch this summer, MBTA General Manager Phil Eng said at Thursday's MBTA board meeting.

Riders who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level — which in 2024 is about $30,120 annually for a single person or $62,400 for a family of four — will qualify for MBTA fares at half the usual cost.

The reduced fares will apply to all travel across the MBTA's network, including commuter rail, ferries and the RIDE paratransit service.

MBTA officials have estimated the program could cost roughly $25 million in fiscal 2025, then rise to between $52 million and $62 million per year once fully implemented by fiscal 2029.

The MBTA projects about 62,000 train, bus and ferry riders will take advantage of the program.

Gov. Maura Healey and lawmakers agreed to put $5 million into the current year's state budget to fund the groundwork for standing up the program, and the governor proposed another $45 million to cover its costs in her fiscal year 2025 spending bill.

Information from the State House News Service was used in this report.