MBTA unveils 23 percent fare hike; limited service cuts also proposed

 

By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff

 

Get ready to dig deeper to ride the MBTA.

Riders on the public transit system would pay an average of 23 percent more and most service cuts would be spared under a budget-balancing plan announced this morning by the T.

The changes, to take effect July 1, are significantly less severe than the two proposals unveiled by the T in January and widely criticized at hearings throughout Greater Boston in recent months. Those proposals would have relied entirely on fare increases and service cuts to make up the $160 million deficit the MBTA faces for the upcoming budget year.

Instead, the T hopes to use $51 million in one-time funds from the state’s motor vehicle inspection program to soften the blow on transit riders, Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey said. Other sources — including $7 million in leftover snow and ice money from the mild winter, and an unexpected $5 million from a deal to lease the North Station parking garage — help reduce the amount that will need to be made up by transit riders to about $90 million, Davey said.

Davey warned in a news conference that the plan was just a one-year fix — and that more unpopular decisions could be ahead.

“I can’t emphasize enough this is a one-year solution. And all things being the same, we will be back in the same position a year from now, looking at service cuts and potentially more fare increases,” he said.

He said the debt service costs on the T’s billions of dollars in debt were rising, along with such costs as employee health insurance and providing service to the disabled. Fare revenue cannot keep pace, he said.

Under the plan unveiled today, subway riders using a CharlieCard would pay $2 instead of $1.70 — an 18 percent increase — while bus riders using the prepaid card would pay $1.50 instead of $1.25, a 20 percent hike. A monthly bus and subway pass would rise to $70, from $59.

Students and seniors would still pay discounted fares, but their discount would shrink. And fares for The Ride, the door-to-door service for the disabled, would double from $2 to $4 for riders in the region’s inner core while rising to $5 in a new “premium” area in outlying suburban neighborhoods, Davey said.

Instead of deep cuts to service, the T will eliminate four of its nearly 200 bus routes and reduce runs on 14 additional bus routes. It will also eliminate weekend service on three commuter rail lines, Greenbush, Plymouth/Kingston, and Needham.

But the T will largely preserve threatened ferry service and will continue running the Green Line’s E Line trolley to Brigham Circle on weekends — stopping short of Heath but not eliminating it, allowing riders to reach the Longwood Medical Area and nearby art museums — Davey said. Ferry fares will be raised about 35 percent, and the Quincy boat will be eliminated on weekends, with the goal of ending public subsidies for the ferry lines but keeping them operating.

“We’ve spent the last two months out at 30 hearings listening to customers, and our proposal I think reflects what we’ve heard from our customers,” Davey said. “Overwhelmingly, we heard from folks that they were opposed to cuts in service, and we should really look to try to minimize cuts as much as we could — but at the same time realizing the fiscal realities that many customers said they would pay a little more to maintain service.”

Governor Deval Patrick told reporters at the State House that he agreed the plan was a one-year fix and vowed to put the MBTA’s problems at the top of the legislative agenda next year.

“This is neither a permanent nor a comprehensive solution,” he said. “The T will be back in this situation next year.”

“I don’t favor short-term patches,” he said, adding at another point, “This solution is all about patches and plugs.”

Patrick would not offer any suggestions for how to fix the problem, saying, “I’m going to reserve my judgment on what the best solution should be.”

The T last raised fares Jan. 1, 2007. The coming increases — which still need approval from the MBTA board — would keep T fares competitive with those in other major cities, Davey said.

The transfer from the vehicle inspection fund would require the Legislature to tweak a state law that requires that money to be spent on motor vehicle air quality; the money is a surplus remaining from when the inspection sticker was raised to $29, with most of the fund invested in modernizing motor vehicle inspections, Davey said.

“As we read the statute, we didn’t believe the MBTA fell under that, but frankly I can’t think of any other better air-quality improvement than getting people on public transportation and out of their cars. So we believe this is an appropriate use of that surplus, to at least give the MBTA fiscal flexibility to keep service running,” he said.

The T also for the first time will ask Ride customers to volunteer information about the nature of their trips, a move the MBTA has been reluctant to make in the past for legal reasons. But some of those trips are medically related and could be eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement, a move that could yield $5 million but would require legislative action to allow the MBTA and the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services to coordinate on the matter, Davey said.

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeMoskowitz.

TRU Press Advisory 03-27-12

The Fast Five Come to the Rescue of MBTA Riders

From the Metro (2/28/11): T Riders Union has Come to the Rescue

Who are the Fast Five?

Download details here, or view below.

OTM Coalition Members Lead Rally Against Fare Hikes and Service Cuts!

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OTM member organizations the Transit Riders Union (TRU) and theGreater Four Corners Action Coalition were 2 notable groups out front on the March and Rally that took place on January 23, 2012.  Over 20 community groups and organizations took to the steps of the State House yesterday to assail fare hikes and service cuts proposed by the MBTA, then joined more than 200 others at a rowdy public hearing.  There appears little support on Beacon Hill for a funding alternative to the fare hikes and service cuts.

The MBTA faces a $161 million budget gap in the budget year that begins July 1. T officials have argued that they’ve already cut jobs, restrained employee benefits, maximized advertising revenue and eliminated inefficiencies, leaving fare hikes and service cuts as their only levers left to pull. Soaring energy costs, flatter-than-expected sales taxes in recent years, and surging costs to provide transportation options to disabled riders, they contend, have far outpaced the T’s revenue supply.

To address the shortfall, MBTA officials have offered two proposals – one that would raise fares by 43 percent and impose moderate service cuts, and another that would raise fares by 35 percent but demand more drastic reductions in service across the system, which serves 175 Massachusetts communities.

As at its previous hearings, the T found little sympathy from riders, who lined up and angrily denounced the proposals as skewed against the poor, ill-conceived, and likely to be accompanied by unintended consequences.

An aide to Rep. Gloria Fox testified on behalf of the Boston Democrat, ripping the MBTA’s proposals.

“We have the most vulnerable communities under attack in these scenarios,” the aide said.

For more on this article, go to the following page on WBUR.

 

We Are ON THE MOVE!

On the Move (OTM) is a coalition of nine community based organizations in greater Boston that came together in 2002 to advocate for transportation justice. We also strive for REAL TRANSIT EQUITY in the Greater Boston area. Here is a definition of EQUITY from our friends at PolicyLink.

Stuart_big dig debt_ko         KCREEDON_OTM-Summit_3.2.13-108       KCREEDON_OTM-Summit_3.2.13-452

Just and fair inclusion. An equitable society is one in which all can participate and prosper. The goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential. In short, equity creates a path from hope to change.

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Save the T Rally, 1/23 at 12PM

Transportation Justice

Rally and March!

January 23, 2012

 

Get your YA! WHAM! BOO! TO THE FARE HIKES AND SERVICE CUTS, TOO! beast out on Monday, January 23, 2012, 12pm at the State House. For more information on what, where, how and why-check out OTM member organization Transit Riders Union (TRU) website and Facebook page for more details.

On The Move (OTM) is responding to the Fare Hikes and Service Cuts Proposals with a blend of Tactics from our Member Organizations.

Click here for a list of upcoming public hearings and workshops sponsored by the MBTA!