LYNN — “May I see your ticket, please?” may become a question Lynn commuter rail riders and ones boarding trains in Swampscott and other communities will be routinely required to answer as rail operators step up efforts to reduce fare evasion.
Beginning at North Station today and branching out to other commuter rail stations as the month unfolds, the “Fare is Fair” checks are aimed at reversing a troubling discovery: In a recent survey only two-thirds of passengers said their fare was collected “all the time,” according to Keolis Commuter Services (KCS), the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail operator.
“Millions of dollars each year is lost due to passengers purchasing an incorrect ticket or in some cases no ticket at all. These are resources that could be invested into critical network, fleet and service improvements,” said David Scorey, Keolis CEO and general manager.
When coach cars are crowded, conductors are prevented from checking all tickets. As a result, passengers often do not activate a ticket, have a paper ticket punched or pay cash for a ticket on board.
In past years, Keolis has conducted random ticket checks, according to a company statement, at random stations about six to eight times a year. But the company is stepping up fare checks with more commuters transitioning from summer work and vacation schedules to regular work week.
The checks will take place, for the most part, before commuters board trains. Trains are not held for checks and Fare is Fair works will ensure lines are minimized to ensure passengers make their scheduled trains, the Keolis statement said.
Scorey said the checks are also an opportunity to educate commuter rail riders about potentially more convenient, even affordable, ticket purchasing options, including monthly passes and the Mticket app.
“Many regular passengers have already experienced Fare is Fair events. These do not unreasonably inconvenience passengers, and this same philosophy will be used as we design and deploy other modernizations around the commuter rail, including strategies to reduce onboard cash, deploy digital scanners for conductors and implement gate systems,” Scorey said.
The increased ticket checks go hand in hand with Keolis’ plans to transition to onboard ticket scanners and implement key marketing initiatives. The company statement called ticket processing modernization efforts part of Keolis and the MBTA’s plan to grow commuter rail ridership.
The company and the MBTA have faced criticism for train on-time performance and winter weather delays. Lynn’s state legislative delegation has taken agency officials to task for conditions inside the Market Street commuter rail garage with its graffiti-covered walls and rusting metal stairwell treads and structural beams.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in August said money is available in the MBTA’s Capital Investment Program to hire a consultant to map out renovation plans for the commuter garage with a consultant hired sometime this fall.