BOSTON (AP) — Riders enjoyed a day of free fares on the city's public transit system Friday as a token of appreciation following a winter of disastrous breakdowns, but many noted the goodwill gesture wouldn't mean much unless service improved going forward.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority offered the free rides on all modes of transportation, including trolleys, buses and commuter rail trains. Passengers who use weekly or monthly passes will also get a break, with 15 percent discounts on the passes in May.
Customer Appreciation Day, as it was dubbed, was expected to cost the transit agency $5 million in revenue. It was scheduled during public-school vacation week in Massachusetts, when ridership is typically lower than other weeks during the spring.
Patricia Varon, of Somerville, said she appreciated the free ride but felt the T needed to be better managed.
"Does it make up for the bad service this winter? I don't really particularly think so," said Varon, outside the Park Street station in downtown Boston. Her son, Isaac, often waited on cold winter days for trains that never arrived, causing him to lose income from his hourly job, she added.
"The weather being what it was ... can't be fixed," she said. "But the T, I think, can."
Boston received more than 9 feet of snow from a series of blockbuster storms in January and February, breaking modern snowfall records for a single season.
"Free days are nice, but it's definitely not enough," said Giovanni Azzellino at the Roxbury Crossing station. He said the T needed to add more trains, especially in the evenings.
"It's not a great experience waiting 20 or more minutes for a train in the winter at night, I can tell you that," Azzellino said.
At Park Street, the electronic gates where riders must normally insert a ticket to pass through were open, but no large signs notified passengers of free fares. A small sign pointed to discounts being offered at local cultural attractions, retail stores and food outlets in conjunction with Customer Appreciation Day.
Several surprised commuters, like Samrudhi Madhala, suggested that the agency could have done a better job of advertising the free day so more people could take advantage. But she was also willing to give the T the benefit of the doubt.
"They tried their best in snow days. It was really the worst winter," said Madhala, as she waited for a train in Roxbury to Bunker Hill Community College.
Gov. Charlie Baker this week accepted the resignations of six members of the board that oversees the MBTA — which runs the nation's oldest subway system — and later filed legislation to create a new financial control board to oversee the transit system.
Molly Cummings takes the MBTA's Red Line every day from Central Square to her job as an associate editor at a scientific journal near Alewife Station, a trip of just four stops.
On one of winter's worst days, the commute took more than two hours.
"It was so horrible," said Cummings, who pays $75 for a monthly subway and bus pass. She called the free fare day a nice gesture but said a long-term fix was needed.
"I definitely don't want a car," she said.
Associated Press writers Philip Marcelo and Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.