CommonWealth Magazine by Bruce Mohl

Acknowledging problem, cards made available at Chelsea City Hall

THE MBTA, acknowledging that access to CharlieCards is too limited, announced on Thursday that the cards are now available at Chelsea City Hall.

CharlieCards are reusable plastic cards that provide access to lower fares. A bus fare is $1.75 with the CharlieCard and $2 for those using cash or the paper CharlieTicket. Similarly, a subway or trolley fare is $2.25 with the CharlieCard and $2.75 with cash or the CharlieTicket.

CharlieCards are generally available at major transit hubs, while fare vending machines are located at subway stations. Bus riders, unless they plan ahead, are often stuck using cash.

“Under this initiative, the MBTA is acknowledging access to cards needs to increase, especially in communities with a higher reliance on buses,” the MBTA said in a press release.

The issue has become a hot topic as the MBTA is preparing to transition to a new fare collection system that won’t allow buses or trolleys to accept cash. The T has promised to deploy more fare vending machines and enlist retailers to recharge fare cards, but many transit advocates remain concerned that bus passengers and riders who use cash will be left stranded. Chelsea transit advocates have been particularly outspoken on the issue.

Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots, said there have been only four locations in Chelsea where residents can pick up CharlieCards. She said four locations for a municipality of 45,000 people is not nearly enough.

“This is a vioctory — a small victory, but still a victory — for getting more access to CharlieCards,” she said.

The four locations where CharlieCards are available in Chelsea are Caribbean Liquors on Broadway, Telepage Corp. on Pearl Street, PLS Check Cashing on Park Street, and Family Food Mart on Revere Beach Parkway. Cards will also be available now in the Treasury office at Chelsea City Hall – available for $5 with a preloaded balance of $5 or free with no balance.

In its press release, the T said it is looking to partner with nonprofit organizations and municipalities to provide more residents with CharlieCards. Those interested should contact the T’s chief customer officer, Danny Levy, at Dlevy@mbta.com.