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Low-income T fare program gets $5 million in state funds for design and launch

Discounted fares for lower-income MBTA riders are closer to becoming a reality, with $5 million set aside in the state budget to design the program.

An estimated 60,000 T passengers stand to benefit under the new plan, according to the T. The effort has been years in the making, but there are still hurdles to overcome before riders can apply for discounted fares.

A key challenge will be the “means-testing” required to verify an individual’s income for eligibility.

The new program would offer reduced fares for adults between 26 and 64 years old with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line. For instance, a single person who makes less than $29,160 a year could qualify.

MBTA Advisory Board executive director Brian Kane said the T will most likely need partners to assist with verifying incomes.

“The T can't just go out there and run a means-tested program by itself because it doesn't have the information,” Kane said. A partnership with state or municipal agencies that already collect income data could help, he said.

The T’s director of Fare Policy and Analytics, Steven Povich, in March told MBTA Board members it could take “at least 12 months” for the program to start, once the initial $ 5 million to design and launch it became available.

The transit system currently offers several other reduced fare programs. Many school districts within Greater Boston provide reduced-fare Charlie Cards to students, and the T offers a discounted Youth Pass for people aged 18 to 25. Riders 65 and older also are eligible for reduced fares, and people with disabilities can apply for lower fares through a Transportation Access Pass.

In a statement, a representative for the T said the authority is pleased to have received the Healey-Driscoll Administration's funding support, and staff is working on development of the new program.

Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez Transportation Reporter
Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez is a transportation reporter for WBUR.

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