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Successful North Shore Transit Incentives End On Friday

11:34 AM EDT on August 31, 2023

A ferry attendant waits for a bicyclist to wheel his bike onboard at Lewis Wharf in East Boston. The downtown Boston skyline is visible in the background beyond Boston Harbor.

A ferry attendant waits for a bicyclist to wheel his bike onboard at Lewis Wharf in East Boston.

State officials have credited free transit fares and improved Blue Line service for the “really minimal impact" in regional traffic congestion during this summer's Sumner Tunnel closure.

But those benefits for transit riders come to an end tomorrow, when the T will resume collecting full-priced fares on the same day the tunnel reopens to make it easier for people to drive into downtown Boston.

During a ride on the fare-free 111 bus earlier this month, outgoing MassDOT Secretary Gina Fiandaca expressed hopes that the shift to increased transit use would persist even after the tunnel re-opens.

“We want everyone to ditch the drive and stay on the bus, stay on public transit, make that mode-shift even after the tunnel is open,” Fiandaca told the Boston Globe.

What MassDOT managed to do this summer – a significant reduction in highway traffic with improved public transit – is something that the agency will need to do much more of in the years to come in order to avoid increasingly threatening disasters from a heating climate.

But snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Commonwealth won't offer anything beyond Secretary Fiandaca's hopes to encourage transit use after the when the highway tunnel re-opens to traffic tomorrow.

On Friday, the MBTA will resume collecting fares on the Blue Line, the East Boston ferry, and five cross-harbor bus routes, including the 111 to Chelsea.

Other incentives for transit riders – including discounted fares on other ferry routes and regional rail lines – are also expiring tomorrow.

And at the same time, the re-opened Sumner Tunnel will make it easier than it's been all summer for motorists to drive their cars into downtown Boston.

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