MBTA scrambling to load new fares for Friday price hike

Facing a Friday deadline, the MBTA and its software vendor are scrambling to load new fares into fare gates, vending machines and systems on buses and trolleys.

"We had some challenges last week in terms of replicating in the field what we're doing in the test lab in Burlington. Something we're working through real-time," MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve told the News Service.

Shortsleeve said the vendor, Scheidt & Bachmann, "expressed a high level of confidence" in the software updates in a phone call Sunday night.

"They're testing today in the field, and I think within 24 hours we'll probably have a better update. It's a very active situation this week," Shortsleeve said on Monday.

The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board in March voted to increase fares an average of 9.3 percent - a step that is scheduled to take place Friday, July 1.

There are about 1,500 fare boxes on trolleys and buses, according to an earlier presentation by the MBTA, and 335 fare vending machines. Fare gates are present at subway stations throughout the system.

Control board member Brian Lang said he was "very interested" in learning whether Scheidt & Bachmann could be held responsible if the new fares fail to be put in place.

"Is there any penalty for them not being able to get it done?" Lang asked.

MBTA general counsel John Englander said discussion could be held in a closed-door executive session.

"That's their job. Is that right?" Lang said. He said, "It's a problem with the contractor. Am I right?"

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack noted the MBTA is seeking to completely overhaul its automated fare collection technology and said the T needs to address the problems with its current system.

"Upgrading our fare equipment is actually a necessity," Pollack said. She said, "It is past the end of its useful life. We cannot count on it."

The MBTA has an overall repair deficit of about $7.3 billion, officials said last year. Scheidt & Bachmann USA is based in Burlington and the company has fare collection business in Canada and Europe, according to its website.


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