MBTA reorders timeline of open fare payments launch by Cubic-John Laing P3

MBTA reorders timeline of open fare payments launch by Cubic-John Laing P3 Image credit: MBTA

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Board has approved a change to the contract with Cubic Transportation Systems (Cubic) and John Laing that will "resequence" the rollout of the new fare collection system, making the start earlier while pushing back the project's final end date.

MBTA overseers agreed to delay the complete rollout across all modes from May 2024 to June 2026, and to push the "longstop date", by which every contract condition must be met, from August 2025 to June 2027.

Under the change, the new payment option will launch sometime this summer on subways, buses and above-ground Green Line trolleys. Riders will be able to pay their fares not just with a traditional pass, but also with a tap-enabled credit card, a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, and similarly enabled smart watches. The system will also support a new reduced-price fare option for low-income riders.

A new fare collection system will launch this summer allowing subway and bus riders to pay by tapping a contactless credit card or mobile wallet on a smartphone, like Apple Pay, instead of the traditional CharlieCards and paper tickets.

By spring 2025, the MBTA will launch a new Charlie Card system, a mobile app and upgraded fare vending machines. A year later, by spring 2026, contactless payment will expand onto commuter rail trains with validators installed at stations and ferries, where workers will instead make use of handheld scanners. Traditional payment methods will still be available once the contactless payment is up and running.

The Mattapan Line is not scheduled to get the new functionality until several months after the rest of the core rapid-transit system. A "power availability issue" prevents operation of the fare readers on board those trolleys. Crews will instead install validators at Mattapan Line stations, which riders could use to tap a credit card or mobile device. The work will commence in the fall.

The original $723 million public-private partnership (P3) contract with the Cubic | John Laing Consortium called for most features to launch in 2020, but the MBTA amended its agreement in a 2020 "reset" that pushed the total cost to $967 million. Officials now expect the contract to come in at $926 million, down about $41 million. Cubic and John Laing can earn another $11 million in incentives if the full system is successfully running in the spring of 2026. 

This is the first P3 fare collection project in the U.S. Equipment will include fare validators, fare gates and vending machines for all subway and rail stations in addition to more than 1,000 buses.

Source: MBTA