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Subway, Bus Fares Likely To Increase Over Summer

By Jordan Rubin

PRODUCTION EDITOR

Starting as early as July 1, Boston commuters traveling by subway can expect to be buy tokens for one dollar, and bus riders will pay seventy-five cents per trip, if the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority enacts recent recommendations. Commuter rail prices, currently between eighty-five cents and $4.75, are expected to increase by one dollar.

The MBTA Blue Ribbon Committee recommended the fare increase in a report issued last Wednesday, citing the T’s low fares relative to other urban transit systems and recent state legislation reorganizing funding.

The rate increase, along with other recommendations made by the committee, will not go into effect until they are approved by the MBTA Board of Directors. Before the board may tackle this issue, the T must hold public hearings to review the report. No schedule has been set up for these public meetings.

Push for new fare collection system

The increased fares, according to the committee, should be accompanied by the implementation of an automated system for fare collection. Such a system would allow for fares based on distance travelled and discounts for off-peak travel. As reported by Boston news website boston.com>, installation of an automated fare collection system would cost about $120 million and increase revenues by $6 million. Savings of $6.2 million per year could be realized by the reduction of the need for fare collectors.

According to MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo, the cost of operations for the MBTA topped $600 million this year, rising by about $50 million from last year. In the seven years preceding fiscal year 1998, operations costs rose from $540 million to $551 million, an average of less than $2 million per year.

The Blue Ribbon Committee reported that 37 percent of costs are recovered in revenues. The committee hopes to increase the coverage rate to 50 percent, a number more in line with other large U.S. transit systems as well as legislative funding policies.

Legislation that takes effect on July 1 establishes a new framework for funds coming from Beacon Hill. Known as forward funding, the system provides MBTA with a predictable source of funding at the beginning of the year. Previously the T would request funding for a certain percentage of its cost of operations.

Further rate hikes recommended

The committee envisions this rate hike to be the first in a set of three price increases. The next two are set for 2003 and 2005. Along with the increase in fares, the MBTA is expected to examine payment structures including special discounts and visitor passes.

According to Pesaturo, the T offers the lowest fares in the country. Even after the proposed rate increases, the T is expected to still be one of the least expensive mass transit systems.

The T will also seek to reach its goal of covering half of its expenses through increases in non-fare revenues such as parking. Currently, the price to park in an MBTA lot is significantly less expensive than market rates, most notably when compared to downtown parking fees.

“Urban Ring” idea reemerges

Future construction plans for the T were released yesterday, as reported on boston.com.The idea of a mass transit urban ring to better connect Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea was raised again. A system of light rail, buses, and dedicated lanes, the urban ring will include all subway lines and approximately seventy percent of the bus routes.

The rail lines behind the MIT campus, parallel to Vassar Street were utilized in some of the initial designs for the urban ring. Pesaturo was unsure of whether the most recent drafts included the use of this rail line. Future plans for the urban ring are unsure due to the fact that there are no plans to fund the project. Related stories: