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Keolis unveils plan to crack down on MBTA fare evasion

Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) commuter-rail system, earlier this week presented a new proposal aimed at reducing fare evasion on the commuter-rail system.

The company is willing to make capital investments to "bring the system in line with international best practices," including installing gates at major stations and updating ticketing technology, company officials said at an MBTA meeting held April 25.

Keolis' proposal could increase the agency's revenue by up to $24 million, company officials said in a press release.

A 2015 survey found that 15 percent to 20 percent of commuter-rail passengers travel using the wrong fare or without a ticket, costing the system as much as $35 million each year. A primary driver of fare evasion is the "open design" of the current fare collection system, Keolis officials said.

In the company's presentation to MBTA's fiscal management and control board, Keolis officials said that passengers can dodge fares by reusing old tickets, using screenshots of mobile tickets or moving seats when conductors come by to check tickets.

Fare evasion has been a "long-standing issue" for the MBTA's commuter-rail system, but little has been done in the past to address it, Keolis officials said. However, since taking over operations in July 2014, the French company has partnered with MBTA on several initiatives to curb fare evasion, such as adding conductors and providing an email address for passengers to report any issues with fare collection or evasion.

"When Keolis bid on this contract, we identified fare evasion as a source of lost revenue for the MBTA and said we would be coming back to the [agency] and making recommendations for improving the system by leveraging our experience from managing systems around the world, and that’s exactly what we are doing," said  Keolis Commuter Services General Manager Gerald Francis.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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