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MBTA cuts train rates in Lynn

By Gayla Cawley | May 22, 2020

LYNN — Commuters will be able to take the train from Lynn to Boston at subway rates through the end of the month. 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced Thursday that it was temporarily reducing fares at the Lynn Commuter Rail Station to reduce overcrowding on buses while the Blue Line is shut down for track and harbor tunnel repair work. 

“For the same affordable price as a subway fare, riders can travel between Lynn Station and Downtown Boston through May 31,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak in a statement. “We’re offering this temporary zone change with the goal of reducing crowding and promoting social distance on buses and the Blue Line during the current service diversion, and we encourage our North Shore riders to consider the Commuter Rail to and from Lynn as a travel option instead.”

Starting Friday, Zone 1A fares will be accepted at the Lynn Commuter Rail Station. The change temporarily reduces the cost of a one-way ticket to Boston from $7 to $2.40, the same price as a Charlie Card subway fare. 

Although the fare reduction is being implemented to improve social distancing on buses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Thomas M. McGee and members of the Lynn delegation are pushing for the change to become permanent. 

“I would like to thank the MBTA, as this is a great step in the right direction,” said McGee. “We have been consistently advocating for a permanent reduction to Zones 1A fares for Lynn. I urge the T to extend this for at least four weeks so that people know it is available and can take advantage of the reduced fares.”

McGee and Lynn lawmakers plan to send a letter to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on Friday urging the panel to extend the week-long pilot program for an additional month, which aims to demonstrate that more people will ride the T with more affordable rates. 

In a press release, the MBTA said the fare effort will give the agency an opportunity to collect ridership data related to the effects of temporary fare changes on relieving crowding on bus routes and the Blue Line. 

However, McGee said giving riders a couple of days notice for a week-long fare reduction doesn’t give the city enough time to show that the change should become permanent. In addition, he does not want to see the city penalized by data that may show reduced ridership due to people avoiding public transit during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The ride right now is $7 one-way,” said McGee. “To make it a subway fare is going to lead to more people being able to afford it. As people are going (back) to work in Boston, we want this to be in place.” 

A fare reduction in Lynn gained more traction last November, when the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board voted to commit to electrifying the state’s commuter rail system. That transformation would include implementing near-rapid transit at subway rates from Lynn to Boston. 

The MBTA board determined that a section of the Newburyport/Rockport line, which connects Lynn, Revere, Chelsea and Everett to Boston, the Fairmount line in Boston, and the Providence/Stoughton line had the most urgent need for near-rapid transit and were most equipped to handle a switch to electrification first. 

“That approval was great news for us and we’re going to continue to strongly advocate for implementing the first phase and really starting to see this opportunity happen here in Lynn,” said McGee. 

Having a reduced rate and more frequent service would be “game-changer” for Lynn, said McGee, noting that it would bring a rapid-transit option to the city. 

“It’s something we’ve been advocating for a long time,” he said. “To see the T is at least looking at it, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s important for Lynn, for the station, and for the service we get into Boston.” 

State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he was pleased that the T was piloting the fare reduction in Lynn, but would prefer a longer pilot program, with the goal of having it become a permanent solution. 

“I think this is more related to COVID right now, but even outside of the pandemic, we believe we should have lowered fares here,” said Crighton. “It’s ridiculous for a one-way ticket for a very short trip into Boston to cost $7, not to mention (the cost of) parking. The current fares are unaffordable for most folks in the area.”

Without rapid transit access in Lynn, Crighton said commuters are left with limited options — they can either ride the bus into Boston or drive to Wonderland to catch the train. 

“We think with Lynn being the biggest city on the North Shore, (we) should have more affordable, frequent service.”  

State Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn) said he was happy to see that the T has offered fare reductions to riders while repairs are being made on the Blue Line, but also wants to see the changes become permanent. 

“Ideally, I would like to see these reductions extended permanently to give riders enough time to learn about and take advantage of lower fares for their commutes,” said Capano. “I also hope ridership numbers during the pandemic are not the determining factor for lower fares down the road.”

The T said the temporary fare reductions aim to provide another travel option for riders who typically transfer to the Blue Line at Wonderland Station, and additional North Shore customers affected by the temporary Blue Line shutdown who travel to and from downtown Boston.