Fixing Fare Zones Two: No Zones

July 21, 2022

Remember when I did "Fixing Fare Zones" in January? Of course I do, and at the end of April, it ended up being adapted into an op-ed published in CommonWealth Magazine, a smaller online journal for issues around Massachusetts. I gained a number of Twitter followers from that as well. (Don't follow me? Go follow me if you want.) I said in January's post that I wasn't messing around with the interzone fares of the MBTA. Truth is, I wasn't sure what to do with them. The original post was only for fares for those traveling to or from the expensive Zone 1A, with fares being set proportionally based on the outer boundary of the zone.

Well, this week Maz (the guy who actually had the first idea of the fare reform brought up in the January post) had a question. What is the cheapest and most expensive (per mile) journey one can make on the Commuter Rail? I figured that the cheapest would be South Station to Wickford Junction ($13.25, the cheapest per mile from Zone 1A there currently is), and that the most expensive would be Fairmount to Readville ($7, crossing the only Zone 1A / 2 boundary on the south side, and is a short distance). Caleb thought that someone could make an algorithm to determine the journeys that Maz was looking for. So, with my programming knowledge (how I created both the Eliot Deviation Index calculator and this blog), I took the challenge to find these journeys.

This was it, the solution to how to deal with the interzone fares, which was to dump the whole zone system. Think about it. To get every journey to be priced at the "magical" 21 cents per mile, each station should be its own "zone". Well, that's how I did it anyway. Well, how exactly was every fare found? There are 985 one-seat journeys on the Commuter Rail (including the handful of low-ridership stops indefinitely closed in 2020 and 2021, and excluding Plymouth, because I have issues with how they operate the end of that line). I wrote a program to find the distance between each of the 985 pairs, and calculate the new fare based on the 21 cents per mile proportion. It's really simple actually.

There is actually a list of each of the 985 (update, September 2022 - we're up to 1,023 pairs now) pairs that I put together. These were actually the first things released with this project (this write-up is coming a few hours later). I've sorted this three different ways, alphabetically, by new fare, and by current price per mile. These are all 20 page PDF files as well.

Also, what are the journeys that Maz was looking for? The cheapest are between South Acton and Wachusett, as well as between Mansfield and Wickford Junction (both 12 cents per mile). The most expensive are between Bradford and Haverhill, between Bellevue and Highland, and between Highland and West Roxbury (all at $6.88 per mile).

Edit, later on - I have also done a version with Metra (since it was in the original Fixing Fare Zones) wtih 2,953 pairs, sorted the same ways - alphabetically, by new fare, and by current price per mile.

Posted: Jul 22, 2022 01:35

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