A new study from the Pioneer Institute estimates the MBTA could be facing fare evasion costs of $35 million.
The study comes as the agency prepares to begin letting riders board buses and trolleys at the front and rear next year as part of its new contactless fare collection system.
The T’s current fare evasion penalty includes fines from $100 up to $600. Unpaid fines could result in license suspension.
Last year, the T considered eliminating the license suspension penalty and lowering the fines to between $50 and $100, which T officials say is enough to deter passengers from skipping fares. But, T board members said the fines were still high.
A final decision has not yet been made.
Greg Sullivan, research director for the institute, said the report is an effort to encourage the T’s board of directors to implement a “fare evasion policy that works.”
“I think the project is a good project but there is a problem with it, having to do with potential for very large fare evasion on the Green Line and on buses,” Sullivan said.
According to the institute, if the T lowers its fines to between $25 and $50, the cost between revenue losses and the need for on-board inspectors could be anywhere from $28 million to $35 million each year.
Among its recommendations, the report suggests the T hire a third party to conduct a comprehensive study on the extent to which fare evasion will increase when all-door boarding begins, and use tap-in/tap-out systems at some Green Line stations.