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AFC 2.0 FAQs

Updated on July 18, 2018

The MBTA's new fare payment system, Automated Fare Collection 2.0, will make paying for transit easier and more convenient.


What is the goal of this project?

Our new fare system is meant to make paying for transit easy, so that you can get where you’re going faster. You will be able to pay with a fare card, a smartphone, or a contactless credit card. It's nice to have flexibility.

Among other benefits, this flexibility will speed up buses, the Green Line, and the Mattapan Trolley by letting riders board at any door. Transit should be fast, easy, and fair. This is just one step we’re taking to make that possible.

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That all sounds good, but what's actually going to change?

Our subway, bus, Commuter Rail, and ferry services will all be accessible through one fare payment system. The way you pay for your commute downtown on the Green Line will also work for your weekend trip on the ferry and visits to family on the Commuter Rail.

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What is the project timeline? Is everything changing tomorrow?

We’re building this new system from the ground up so that it meets the needs of our riders. We’ll need lots of input from you over the next couple years to best ensure that happens. You may have heard about the project early on in our timeline, when we signed a contract with Cubic. Now we’re designing the system in partnership with them, and you’ll be hearing a lot more from us as the project develops.

You’ll start seeing some pilot programs in late 2019 and early 2020. We're slated to launch the new system in May 2020. It will be phased in as the old system is phased out through a gradual transition period, so that everyone has plenty of time to make the switch. We expect to retire the old system completely by mid-2021.

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I've heard that this new system is "cashless." Will I still be able to pay with cash? How does that work?

You will still be able to use cash with the new fare payment system. In fact, cash will be accepted at even more locations than today.

We are dramatically expanding the retail network, installing streetscape fare vending machines at some bus stops, and increasing the number of fare vending machines at major bus transfer hubs.

We’re also making it possible to load your card on the internet or via phone, so fewer people will need to use fare vending machines at all.

The difference in the new system is that cash will no longer be accepted on board vehicles. This helps us improve bus and Green Line service by reducing the time it takes to board.

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How will I buy a ticket in the new system? Will there be a CharlieCard?

Yes, there will still be a CharlieCard. You may also opt to pay with a smartphone or contactless credit or debit card. You will be able to pay by tapping your card or device at fare gates, on station-based validators, or at any door on buses and the Green Line.

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What's a contactless credit or debit card?

Contactless credit or debit cards are the next generation of bank card technology. Similar to how you use a CharlieCard on the T today, they allow you to complete a transaction by tapping a reader. These cards are common in Europe, and we expect them to become the dominant payment method in the U.S. in the near future.

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Will I be able to use my smartphone to tap?

Yes, you will be able to pay through an MBTA app on your smartphone or using a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. It’s up to you which method you’d like to use.

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Will I need to have a credit card to be able to tap with my phone?

No, you will not need a credit card in order to tap with your phone and use the mobile app. You will be able to add value to your mobile fare card using cash (at fare vending machines or at retail locations) or a debit card (at any of the places you can use cash, plus online or by phone), and then use the mobile app to pay when you tap your phone.

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The hardest part about the old system was figuring our where to get a CharlieCard. Will that still be the case?

You'll be able to get a CharlieCard at all fare vending machines—which you'll find at MBTA stations and some bus stops—as well as many retail stores in your neighborhood.

You will also be able to board with your smartphone, smartwatch, or contactless credit/debit card.

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Doesn't the MBTA have bigger problems to focus on than this?

At the MBTA, we’re working hard to make your public transit experience better. To do that, we’re making changes throughout the system, from upgraded stations and winterized signal systems to new and efficient vehicles. This new fare payment system will get you moving faster by making it easier to pay your fare and board – bus speeds are expected to improve by up to 10%, helping us keep the system on schedule. That's very much in line with our goals – and yours.

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Will I be able to use my fare card to pay for other things?

This new fare payment system is a better way to pay, board, and go. This new technology positions us for future connections between public transit and other ways to get around, including ride and bike shares, private shuttles, and even parking. We’re not, however, planning to turn the fare card into a credit or debit card that you use to pay for things beyond transportation.

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How can I get involved?

That’s what we love to hear!

Find out more about AFC 2.0 related policies

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