MBTA to Offer Free Rides Friday as ‘Goodwill Gesture’

The move will cost the cash-starved agency $5 million.

Photo by Margaret Burdge

Photo by Margaret Burdge

The MBTA would very much like to put February in its rear-view mirror.

The transportation board voted last month to approve a two-part plan making amends with commuters affected by the MBTA’s crippling equipment failures in the wake of the snowiest winter in Boston’s history. Not only will all trolley, bus, and commuter rail fares be free of charge for cash-paying riders Friday, April 24, but all monthly commuter rail passes purchased for May will be discounted 15 percent as well.

The board considered several options for reimbursement, including a week of free fares and allowing commuter rail passes purchased for February to be reused another month. Some board members feared the free ride giveaway would set a dangerous precedent.

“This doesn’t set a precedent,” board chairman John Jenkins told the AP upon the plan’s approval. “We’re thanking you and we want you back.”

This plan, described as a “goodwill gesture,” will set the MBTA back an estimated $5 million in lost revenue. Gov. Charlie Baker–who has asserted that his proposed budget’s $40 million in transportation cuts will not hurt service–is expected to unveil legislation aimed at overhauling the MBTA later this week.

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, who was not included in Baker’s request for the transportation board’s resignation letters last week, says the challenge of making things right with inconvenienced riders isn’t necessarily about refilling Charlie Cards.

“It’s how do we thank our customer and rebuild faith?” Pollack told the AP.

Baker will likely announce the creation of a five-member “Fiscal and Management Control Board,” as recommended by the panel he convened in late February to study the MBTA. The board would run the MBTA for the next three to five years, and would be be comprised of three Baker appointees and one appointee from both Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Jenkins submitted his resignation today, the Globe reported. The other members have until June 30 to submit theirs.