Reporting Karen Anderson
BOSTON (CBS) – An I-Team investigation has prompted a number of changes at the MBTA.
Back in May, we told you how a group of commuters said they were unfairly ticketed at a number of MBTA parking lots. After that story aired, the I-Team got a flood of new complaints. We also got the attention of the MBTA’s general manager.
We’re talking about the honor box system at the T’s commuter rail lots. Drivers fold up bills and place them into small slots that correspond with the number painted on their parking space.
Jim Walsh of South Weymouth said he’s been ticketed a number of times and sent us an email after seeing our first story. “Talk about getting hammered,” he said. “You get no receipt and no way to prove that you have paid.”
The I-Team watched as a collector took photos of the inside of honor boxes. That’s the MBTA’s proof of who paid, but Rick Marra of Holliston wonders how that could be accurate.
“I took two, two dollar bills and I fold them together and put them in. How are they going to see that?” he said.
In all, nearly 30 people contacted us with stories of being unfairly ticketed by the T. They were all nabbed in the past few months.
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott says that is not a coincidence.
“This is revenue,” she said.
According to Scott, the T has been cracking down in recent months because the agency has been losing millions of dollars to commuters who simply don’t pay. She admits our story shed light on several flaws in the system.
“We’ve obviously got some work that we need to do on this,” she said.
One of the most common complaints was that commuters were given just three days to pay the fine or face an additional $20 fee.
Scott laughed when she described what it was like talking to her staff about that part of our story.
“We’ve got to go a little bit longer than three days,” she recalls saying to her staff. Scott says she will change that grace period to give commuters 21 days to pay the fine.
Commuters were also upset about the appeals system, particularly because it is tied into the registry. Drivers who don’t pay their tickets are not allowed to renew their driver’s licenses or their car registrations.
James Dilorenzo says when the consequences are so dire the T needs to do a better job of addressing the appeals.
“I called the number to appeal and I never heard back. Wrote to them and I never heard back,” he said.
Scott told us that since the crackdown, her staff has been flooded with appeals and she’s working on finding the resources to get more people processing them.
“It doesn’t make sense to have an appeal process and then you can’t really be responsive with it because you can’t manage it,” she said.
Scott is also considering an amnesty program that would wipe out tickets older than a couple of years. The MBTA is also working on a pilot program to test out an electronic parking system in the Attleboro commuter rail station. Budget constraints will make it difficult to replace all of the honor boxes, but Scott hopes to get there eventually.