How much would you be willing to pay to ride the subway?
On Jan. 3, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates Boston’s public train and bus systems, proposed two fare increase and service reduction plans that could raise the price of a single T trip to as much as $2.40 with a CharlieCard (up from the regular $1.70).
One plan has smaller fare increases — $1.50 per bus ride, up from $1.25, and $2.25 per T ride — but would constitute greater service reductions. A LinkPass (unlimited monthly access to bus and subway lines) would increase from the current $59 to $78 per month. Right now, MIT subsidizes LinkPasses by 50 percent for students.
The other plan has higher fare increase and lower service reductions. Under this plan, a LinkPass will increase from the current $59 to $80.
Both plans include elimination of bus routes, weekend service on the Mattapan High-Speed Line (Red Line branch) and Green Line E branch, weekday service after 10 p.m., weekend service on the commuter rail, and all ferry routes.
“What, do they think Boston just stops on the weekend? … This will cripple the city,” commented one rider on the state’s transportation blog.
On its website, the MBTA explains that the plans aim to reduce its $161 million budget gap in fiscal year 2013. The State of Massachusetts says that the MBTA has already taken other “aggressive steps” to fill its debt, including reducing fuel purchase costs and promoting administrative efficiencies, such as single-person train operation and other staff reductions.
Besides decreased accessibility to Boston and the surrounding areas, MIT students are concerned about how the fare increases will impact their commute to cross-registered classes. A number of students rely on time-flexible public transportation — rather than shuttles — to and from Harvard and Wellesley.
MBTA patrons were less forgiving than the state of Massachusetts. On Monday, the T Riders Union, Occupy Boston members, and local student activists rallied in front of the State House, holding signs saying “We need affordibiliT” and “MBTA: My Bus Taken Away.” During the public meeting that followed, a popular idea among attendees was to look to the state government for funding, as an alternative to service cuts.
Other riders blamed the MBTA’s debt on its own negligent management. “A good pilot could land his plane in this parking lot,” said one rider, holding up a photo of one of MBTA’s underused facilities. On the state’s blog, dozens of angry posts expressed similar views (the first appeared minutes after the fare hikes were publicly announced). One poster suggested better monitoring of buses — empty buses often line up “bumper to bumper” at the stops, but during peak hours, riders might have to wait up to half an hour for the next bus.
The MBTA’s last fare increase in 2007 was better received, as it was mainly implemented to reduce bus-rail transfer rates and simplify fare pricing. But the next increase proposal in 2009, intended to cover its debt burden, was also met with much public protest. Even though the 2009 proposed fares were lower than they are this year, that proposal was not approved.
MBTA public hearings will be running through early March in various communities. Visit http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=23567 for a list of dates and locations. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is scheduled to approve the MBTA’s proposal in April, with a final decision to be made in July.