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MBTA Raises Bus, Subway Ride Fares

By Laura McGrath Moulton


At least you won’t have to worry about nickels and dimes anymore: when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) rate hike goes into effect on September 18, 2000, dollars and quarters will be all you need to ride the T.

In the first rate hike since 1991, a token will cost one dollar, and riding the bus will cost seventy-five cents. Commuter rail prices will be raised by approximately thirty percent, depending on the distance travelled.

The rate hike for passes will go into effect in November, said MBTA spokesman Brian Pedro. At that point, a subway pass will cost $35, a bus pass will cost $25, and a combination pass will cost $57.

Subsidies for MIT students

All MIT students, faculty, and staff who do not have parking permits are eligible for subsidized T passes through the Office of Parking and Transportation.

David Newbury, assistant director of transportation, said, “The reason MIT subsidizes the T pass is to encourage you not to bring your car to campus.”

The subsidized rates for September will remain the same as before the hikes: $7.50 for a bus pass, $13.50 for a subway pass, and $23.00 for a combo pass.

However, Newbury warned, “The amounts are going to fluctuate [after September]. We’re at the mercy of the MBTA.”

Pedro said that the MBTA was waiting until November to raise pass prices in order to allow companies and schools which subsidize passes to set their new rates.

Fares will increase revenue

According to the MBTA website, about 695,000 one-way trips are taken on the subway, bus and commuter rail systems each day. Over the past seven fiscal years, the MBTA has decreased its net cost of service by four percent through increased ridership among other sources of income.

Pedro said that the rate increase was implemented to raise additional revenue after the Massachusetts legislature changed the way the MBTA is funded to a direct grant in advance of a set amount of money.

“We have, for the first time ever, a budget we have to live up to of $655 million,” Pedro said.

After the MBTA Board of Directors approved the rate hike on August 11, Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Sullivan told The Boston Globe, “I think this was a responsible vote and I think it finally gives the taxpayers of this state some relief .... It’s a fair adjustment for the users of the system, and it puts all of the money back into the system. It will be money well spent.”

Populist groups protest hike

Some groups have decried the rate hike, arguing that it will do more harm than good.

“We estimate that 40,000 additional cars will hit Boston-area roads because of this increase,” Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group spokesman Rob Sargent told The Boston Globe. “That means the big revenue increase they want from the higher fares will not be nearly as large as they think.”

Although the MBTA claims “the lowest fare of any major” mass transit system according to Pedro, many people have complained that the lack of a transfer system nullifies that claim.

At the August meeting, the MBTA Board of Directors had voted to implement a pilot program with free transfers for new crosstown bus routes. However, Pedro said that this pilot will not continue. “There will be no transfers. Most of the people who do linking trips would buy passes anyway.”

Another area of particular concern is the MBTA’s reliance on 980 diesel buses, reportedly a major source of pollution in Boston.

The Boston Globe reported on August 11th that the MBTA plans “on purchasing 100 natural-gas burning, wheelchair-accessible buses” to improve the situation.

That improvement is still planned, Pedro said. He said that he expects that twenty percent of the MBTA’s fleet will be of the cleaner, compressed natural gas model “within the next few years.”

“We’ll also be getting the worst buses off the street,” Pedro said.