Maryland Offers New Fare Program to Boost Transit Use

The Maryland Transit Administration – a division of the Maryland Department of Transportation – recently launched “CharmFlex,” a new discounted fare option to accommodate state residents returning to onsite work in more flexible or hybrid work schedules.

[Above photo by the MTA]

CharmFlex’s three- and 10-day passes – applicable to local bus, light rail, metro subway, commuter bus, and MARC train transit services – are available only on the CharmPass mobile fare payment application.

Holly Arnold

“As Maryland’s economy continues to recover and riders return to transit, we’re excited to offer new fare options that address the needs of our riders,” said MTA Acting Administrator Holly Arnold in a statement. “CharmFlex provides the best value for riders traveling only a few times a week or on non-consecutive days.”

The agency said its CharmFlex fares cost about 15 percent less compared to the cost of a day-pass or single-trip fare. To provide more flexibility, the three- and 10-day passes – offering six and 20 one-way fares for MARC train and commuter bus service – can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days and are valid for up to 12 months after the date of purchase.

MTA noted that while still down significantly compared to pre COVID-19 pandemic levels, transit ridership has begun to return. For the second quarter of 2021 – April, May, and June – ridership across all MTA services increased 20 percent compared to the same period in 2020.

Photo by the Maryland Transit Administration

Bus ridership is now down 40 percent compared to pre-pandemic figures after being down about 50 percent in 2020, while MARC train ridership is currently down about 80 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels – an improvement from when it was down 90 percent in August 2020.

The Community Transportation Association of America recently issued a 61-page paper chronicling the “new normal” created by the COVID-19 pandemic for the public transit sector. CTAA also provided six recommendations within that paper to help preserve some of the positives that came out of the re-orientation of transit services during the pandemic.

Those recommendations are to make “public health” a new “focus area” for the transit sector, make fare payment “fairer and more equitable,” focus federal and state government funding on supporting frequent and reliable transit service, strengthen hiring and career development, redesign routes and provide more frequent all-day service, and expand transit’s “demand-response” capabilities.

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