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Bus, T Fares To Rise on Jan. 3

MBTA Promises Better Security and Renovations with Money

By Jennifer T. Wang

Stock up on T tokens because the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be increasing fares on January 3, 2004. Bus fares will rise from $0.75 to $0.90, and subway fares will increase from $1.00 to $1.25.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that the fare increase was prompted by large discrepancies between revenue and expenses. “The T has a $25 million gap between revenue and expenses, and a projected $50 million gap between revenue and expenses for next year,” said Pesaturo. “The fare increase will close the gap. Once we have steady financial status, we can make improvements,” he said.

Improvements will include the addition of more frequent bus and Green Line service, the rebuilding of the Charles / Massachusetts General Hospital Red Line station, and increased security.

The Central Transportation Planning Staff, an independent analysis group, predicted that the ridership would decrease by 3 percent after the fare increase. However, Pesaturo said that the group published a similar result after MBTA fare increases in 2000, which raised bus fares from $0.60 to $0.75 and subway fares from $0.85 to $1.00, there was no subsequent decrease in ridership.

Subsidized pass price to rise

MIT Parking and Transportation will continue to offer subsidized T passes for MIT employees and students, but prices will increase because of the fare increase. As of February 2004, monthly subsidized bus passes will cost $12, up from $9.50, and subway passes will increase to $22, up from $17.50, according to the Parking and Transportation Web site.

Despite the price increase, John M. McDonald, assistant director of enterprise services, said that he does not expect to see a drop in MIT community T passes purchases. The number of people buying the passes did not drop after the fare increase in 2000.

MBTA plans to improve services

The MBTA plans to improve service by providing more frequent service to the busiest bus routes, deploying additional two-car Green Line trains during evening hours, and offering express service on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line, according to a Nov. 6 press release.

In addition, the MBTA plans to increase supervision on certain routes, recruit ten additional police officers to patrol the system, and hire fifteen more Commuter Rail conductors.

It will also use revenues to fund its Capital Improvement Project, which will include maintenance projects such as the rebuilding of Red Line stations at Charles / Massachusetts General Hospital and Dorchester. Other projects include expansion of the new Silver Line bus route, addition of more environmentally-friendly buses to the fleet, and the installation of automated fare collection equipment similar to that used with the MetroCard in New York City.

MBTA and riders disagree

After hearing testimony from community members on Nov. 6, members of the MBTA board voted unanimously to approve the fare increases, The Boston Globe reported on Nov. 7. However, they decided that bus fares would increase to $0.90, instead of the originally proposed $1.00.

Despite the promised improvements, commuters still tend to be wary of the MBTA.

“I have friends who are very angry” with the fare increase, said Nicole Rioles, library assistant at Rotch Visual Collections. “The last increase in 2000 had no positive outcome -- there were no positive benefits for the cost increase.”

When the MBTA first proposed fare hikes in March, distrust of the transportation authority led to the formation of advocacy groups such as “Beat the Fare Increase.” According to its Web site, http:// www.ace-ej.org/FareInc.html, the group said that fare hikes would force low-income riders to shoulder the costs.

Another concern was voiced by the advocacy group Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. The group said that transfer rates from buses to subways were too high. A November report released by MassPIRG showed that although the cost of a one-way ride is lower in Boston than in other cities, the proposed fare increases would drive it to the top.

Pesaturo said, however, that the report included inaccurate data for the Chicago and District of Columbia transit systems.

Committee to discuss concerns

To encourage discussion between riders and the MBTA, the Transportation Authority will create a Rider Oversight Committee, which will hold monthly meetings to address rider concerns and try to increase ridership.

Pesaturo said that the committee will comprise 24 individuals, divided evenly between MBTA managers, advocacy groups, and MBTA riders. Applications for the committee will be available on the MBTA Web site, and flyers will be posted in the transit system. The MBTA said that it will announce the members by Jan. 15.