Free MBTA ferry rides

Ticket collectors are supposed to make thousands of commuters pay for their rides, but our exclusive investigation caught them letting passengers travel free.

If you’re shocked—so were T officials when they saw what she discovered!

Hank’s hidden camera shows you this free ride ferry in action.

Hank investigates.

Here comes the Rita! It's one of the MBTA ferry boats that travels almost 80 times a day between Boston's Long Wharf dock and the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Signs say it's a $ 1.70 per trip. Riders are supposed to buy a yellow ticket and give it to the boat's crew when they get off, but our undercover investigation found it looks like many ferry passengers are riding for free!

Watch as these people leave the boat. The first woman hands her yellow ticket to the guy on the dock.

But the next person and the next walk right by, no ticket.

Keep watching, looks like everyone else in this line got a free ride!

And on another trip: four people, including me, got on and all four of us got off without ever turning in a ticket.

We showed our video to the T's general manager.

Hank: "Are you surprised to see this?"

"Yes I am!" said Jonathan Davis, Acting MBTA General Manager

So were we! We rode the ferries for a solid week, both ways and at lots of different times.

We bought a bunch of tickets in advance, but in 22 out of 29 trips no one ever asked for our tickets!

Hank: "I mean, is this ferry supposed to be free?"

"No its not,” said Jonathan Davis, Acting MBTA General Manager.

The MBTA pays Boston Harbor Cruises half a million dollars a year to run the ferry. The cruise company is supposed to collect tickets or check T passes from riders The company gets to keep the money made from tickets, but is reimbursed by the T for T-passes. Last year, the T paid $148,000, and that's your taxpayer money. So if tickets aren’t collected, and passes aren't checked, how is the ferry coming up with the reimbursement number?

Hank: "Seeing what you just saw, what do you think about how much you are paying?"

"I am concerned about the accuracy of the numbers they are providing us," said Jonathan Davis, Acting MBTA General Manager.

Rick Nolan owns Boston Harbor Cruises.

Hank: "People are being allowed to ride free time after time."

"Well if that's the case, then that's a real problem for me, and I have to look into it but this is news to me," said Rick Nolan, Boston Harbor Cruises.

Boston Harbor Cruises later sent us a statement saying:

"Thank you for bringing the issue of missed tickets to our attention. We take this situation very seriously and therefore, we have taken steps that we feel will accurately solve the issue and ensure 100% ticket collection. The only entity losing in the loss of collection of tickets is Boston Harbor Cruises, which is a privately held family business."

Now it looks like the free ride ferry has made its final voyage! We've learned the T is sending undercover riders aboard to make sure fares are collected. And when we checked again every single person was showing a pass or handing over a ticket.

(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)