WBUR

The MBTA’s Proposed Fare Hikes And Service Cuts Draw Attack

BOSTON — MBTA officials absorbed withering attacks Monday on their proposals to hike fares up to 43 percent and slash dozens of bus routes, commuter rail hours, weekend E Line service and ferry service.

A familiar refrain — that the elimination of services would strand people in their homes, shatter a fragile economy and worsen pollution — was amplified during a hearing on the proposed fare hikes and service cuts that drew dozens of boisterous opponents to the state Transportation Building in downtown Boston.

“Shame on you, Gov. [Deval] Patrick. And I say shame on you [Boston] Mayor Thomas Menino,” said one rider.

Eliminating weekend and late-night commuter rail service, a component of one of the proposals, would prohibit visitors from the South Shore and central Massachusetts from attending Boston sports games, some of the critics argued. Others drew on the language of Occupy Boston to argue that the “1 percent” had bankrupted the T by borrowing to support the Big Dig and then foisting the fiscal burden on riders.

“Efforts need to focus on having the Legislature provide alternative funding for public transportation, including serious consideration of raising the tax on gasoline,” said Doug Johnson, an opponent of raising fares, drawing loud applause.

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.

A rider from the South Shore argued that the T had wasted money on underused parking lots, and he held up a picture of a sparsely used facility.

“A good pilot could land a plane in this parking lot,” he said.

Once the T completes its public hearings in early March, officials will present a final proposal to the board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The board is required to approve the MBTA’s budget by mid-April.

Prior to the hearing, about 100 opponents of the fare hikes and service cuts gathered outside the transportation building and rallied against the T’s proposal, chanting slogans like “Don’t leave riders in a rut; no fare increases, no service cuts.” The rally packed an alleyway outside the Boylston Street entrance to the building.

David Snieckus, a regular visitor to Beacon Hill to advocate for a state-owned bank, said his proposal would solve the MBTA’s budget woes.

“Instead of going to the people for a little bit of money, a fare increase, go to the state of Massachusetts, which gave the MBTA the debt,” he said.

Another rider imitated Rachel Kaprielian, registrar of motor vehicles, reciting a regular PA system announcement in which she invites RMV customers to conduct business online. He said the T’s electronic announcements are unnecessary and wasteful.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AKOO3HTO3YKQ5SF5L6NOPRFT7Y Newt

    Share your thought about the fare hikes on video on http://newsparticipation.com/ Just speak into a video camera and upload and let fellow citizens see you and hear how you feel about it. Tell how the hike and service cuts will affect you and people you know so others will see.

  • LukasZokny

    I want to know why during this finacual mess; is the MBTA barring alcohol ads on all property, including trains, buses?  Is that a wise choice at this time?

    • Anonymous

      The state should make up for this loss in revenue by taking it from the budget of whatever health agency pushed for this change. 

    • Anonymous

      Hey if you want to drink you can just take a fun filled ferry ride to the elite section s of the city on the MBTA’s dime and grab a few martinis at the bar on the boat ride after a long day in your corner office

  • Anonymous

    Below is a direct quote from 5 Charlestown residents who own Condo’s at the Navy Yard. These people truly believe that the MBTA should spend 3.2 Million a year so they can feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their face.  Does not seem to matter to them that there are people in poorer sections of the city who are fighting just to climb on a bus or train because they have no other means of transportation
      ” On no other form of public transportation can residents know that they will have a pleasant, consistent commute. And on no other form of public transportation can commuters sit outside, with the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces, forming a sense of community and friendship with fellow riders while also having the opportunity to reflect happily on their choice to live in a community on its way to becoming revitalized and redeveloped. But this is all about to change if either of the MBTA’s recent proposals, both of which would eliminate all MBTA ferry boat service, is adopted.”

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