WRTA future: Fare-free or new fee-collection system

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WORCESTER — Are low fare revenues a sign that the Worcester Regional Transit Authority needs to go fare-free? Or do low fare revenues mean the bus system needs a new fare-collection system?

“If you look at the system we have in place now, it’s outdated and inefficient and very expensive to maintain,” WRTA Administrator Dennis J. Lipka said. He added that the current system only collects an estimated 70% of actual fares. ”(Fare-free) looks more attractive than it potentially is, because of problems we have with the current fare system and only collecting 70% of fares anyways.”

One of the most salient findings from the Worcester Research Bureau’s report, “The Implications of a Fare-Free WRTA,” is that only 14% of revenue, or $3 million, came from fares in 2018. When calculating the $850,000 annual cost of the fare-collection system and considering the operational benefits of a fare-free system — such as faster boarding, no hunting for change and, perhaps most importantly, a big projected ridership increase — the $2 million to $3 million cost of eliminating fares altogether does not look too steep.

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