Commuter rail riders getting onboard at will pay an additional $3 for a ride to Boston unless they buy a ticket or pass ahead of time, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority announced on Tuesday.
On July 1, the rate for a one-way trip to Boston from Hamilton-Wenham station, in Zone 5, will go from $5.75 to $8. But the same ride will cost $11 if a rider does not get on board with a ticket or pass in hand - even though there's nowhere to buy a ticket in either town.
The move is designed to reduce the amount of time that conductors spend collecting fares.
Previously, the T charged $1 more to buy a ticket onboard during off-peak times and $2 during peak times if riders did not purchase a ticket beforehand. But that fee was always waved if there wasn’t a store or ticket machine at the station where the passenger was boarding the train. That was the case at Hamilton-Wenham station, where this is no store nearby that sells tickets and no fare machine.
But that's no longer the case. Commuter rail riders will need to have a ticket or pass in hand when they board the train in order to avoid paying an additional $6 for roundtrip travel to Boston.
An average of about 400 people ride commuter rail from Hamilton-Wenham station daily and many of them are regular riders who have a monthly pass. On July 1, the cost of that pass will go up from $210 to $252.
But single-trip riders or daytrippers could face sticker shock if they get on board without a ticket.
The T suggests riders use its smartphone app to buy tickets, but that system will not be online when the new fares are rolled out on July 1. It is expected to start sometime this fall.
The T said it will make both rates clear on its website and on its printed schedules. Since there is not a place to buy a ticket or pass at every station, the T said it has kept the on-board cash option.
But by charging $3 more, it hopes to push even more people to buy a ticket beforehand – something it says will help free up conductors to check pass and allow the trains to run on schedule.
“By reducing the number of cash transactions on board, the structure leads to customer service improvements,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a prepared statement explaining the changes. “First, conductors can move more quickly through the train so that all tickets and passes can be verified, helping to reduce fare evasion; second, with less time devoted to cash transactions, more time is available to attend to doors, which results in speedier boarding and exiting times.; This will also contribute to improved on time performance.”