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Last updated: 9/4/19

CharlieCard Access Initiative

CharlieCards decrease transit costs for MBTA riders. We are making these cost-saving cards more accessible. 

Many Boston families are cost-burdened by the price of transportation. Transit riders make up a large portion of these families. The City is committed to helping lower this financial constraint as much as possible. 

Have questions? Contact:

Lindiwe Rennert | Transit Planner
Our partners

We would like to thank our partners, the MBTA and Boston Public Libraries, for making this initiative a success. 

Initiative details


The price of an MBTA trip depends on several things: 

  • Mode - bus, subway, trolley, commuter rail
  • Type of service - express, local
  • Discount qualifications - student, youth, seniors
  • Payment type - single trip, weekly pass, monthly pass
  • Payment medium - cash, CharlieTicket, CharlieCard

We're focused on getting riders as discounted a trip as possible. For that reason, we want to make access to the most cost-saving payment method, the CharlieCard, easy and convenient. 

Before the Initiative went into affect

You could only get a CharlieCard by:

  • going to the Downtown Crossing pass sales office
  • ordering one online
  • receiving one from your place of employment
  • asking an MBTA station attendant, or
  • using the MBTA's online portal to find a retail vendor near you that offers them. 

These access points were not evenly distributed across the City. The locations benefitted people who worked Downtown or had easy access to subway stations and chain retailers.

Thanks to the CharlieCard Access Initiative:
  • CharlieCards are available at 15 libraries across the City and at two locations within Boston City Hall.
  • These cards are unloaded and free to all who request one.
  • Check out the access location maps below and ask your librarian how and where to add value to your card.

By partnering with Boston Public Libraries, the City and the MBTA have increased access across Boston. With this partnership, we also sought to consolidate civic information. Our libraries are places that Boston residents should feel confident and comfortable visiting to learn about City opportunities.

Access Points

Early success


In its first two months, 660 CharlieCards were distributed through the Access Initiative. The Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Libraries saw the highest use of the program, while the Egleston Branch ranked second. Both of these libraries serve communities with high transit ridership. But, they lack immediate access to ticket kiosks. Through this program, riders who would otherwise pay cash are now saving $0.30 per bus ride, and $0.50 per subway ride.



After receiving positive feedback during our launch, the City expanded the number of access points from 10 library branches to 15. We added the South Boston, Parker Hill, Uphams Corner, Codman Square, and Central Branch libraries. This improved the program's geographic equity. With the addition of these five locations, the program has distributed nearly 2,000 CharlieCards as of mid-August.