WBUR

T Customers Have Spoken: Raise Fares Before Cutting Service

In January, the MBTA proposed two plans that could help to close a projected $161 million budget gap for the 2013 fiscal year. The final plan is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. (Source: MBTA)

BOSTON — Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey says any money that the MBTA can save next year will go toward preventing cuts in services, rather than preventing fare increases.

The T has held 31 hearings and meetings over the past two months to get public comment on its proposals to fill a projected $161 million budget gap for the 2013 fiscal year. Davey says customers have made one thing clear:

“What we’ve heard from customers, some customers, not all, is that they’d rather pay a little more than see their service cut”, Davey said.

The T has put two proposals on the table to close its projected deficit. One would raise equal amounts of money from fare increases and drastic service cuts. The other proposal would reduce fewer services, but raise fares more.

Janice Loux, a member of the MBTA board and president of a hotel and food service union, said at Wednesday’s board meeting that she would vote against some cuts in bus service.

“I cannot in good conscience support inner-city bus route cuts that will cut the legs out from under the workers who make this city run,” Loux said.

The T must present its proposed service cuts and fare increases to the board in two weeks. But it now looks like the T will be able to count on two new sources of revenue. Davey expects an additional $5 million from the lease of the North Station garage, and another $7 million from the snow and ice removal budget.

“That’s $12 million which we hope to use to close the gap,” Davey said. “It’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.”

Massport may come to the rescue as well. Davey believes Massport could subsidize the Silver Line and possibly the ferries. Ferries are supposed to be eliminated under both T proposals, but if they can serve the airport or the port, Massport might be able to pay for them.

Wednesday’s board meeting was a colorful one. It included a “mic check” from Occupy the MBTA. Davey and the board seemed bemused by the disruption, but many people brought a more somber note. People with disabilities spoke out against a proposal to increase fares for the The Ride, the taxi and van service for the handicapped.

Somerville Disability Commissioner Ellen Frith predicted that the fare increases would have a devastating impact on people with disabilities.

“They will be shut into their homes, and they are very discouraged right now,” Frith said.

The T is the only major public transportation system in the country that provides rides for disabled people beyond what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires.

The act mandates that people within three-fourths of a mile of public transit routes must be offered taxi or van service. The T offers rides to people beyond that range. It’s proposing to keep providing that service, but to raise fares from $2 to as much as $12.

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  • Anonymous

    Who didn’t know this was the plan from day one?  Scare people with service cuts and then raise the fares after a series of meaningless hearings. 

    Any update on weekend service on the E line? 

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      J_o_h_n, Davey says everything is still on the table. That said, the services with the highest cost per rider are the ones that will be cut. There is an analysis on the T’s web site: http://bit.ly/ycXer4

  • Jake Ronan

    This is an extremely cunning way to go about this matter.  Boston politics and Beijing politics are very familiar 

  • Jake Ronan

    I say let them cut the service……because they really won’t……they are too afraid to let their friends  lose their jobs working for the T which is a joke anyway

  • Anonymous

    Media professionals need to learn that people are not “handicapped”, as in the sentence here: “Disabled people spoke out against a proposal to increase fares for the The Ride, the taxi and van service for the handicapped.” That use of “handicap” has gone the way of “Negro” and “colored”… “handicap” should be used only when referring to inanimate objects, like parking spaces. Ideally, the person should be referenced before the disability, as in “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people”. Words matter.

    • Anonymous

      People who have nothing better to do is the preferred term for whiners.

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      crashcup, thank you for your comments.

       I’ll make sure to say “people with disabilities” from now on. 

      I used the words “disabled people” and “handicapped” because I didn’t want to use the same expression, often twice in the same sentence. 

      My grandmother and my mother  had FSH muscular dystrophy, and my brother has it, and two of my cousins have Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We have always used the word “handicapped” in our family without seeing any stigma in it. 

      That said, your point is well taken. 

      • crashcup

        Thanks Fred, I appreciate your comments. My wife has muscular dystrophy and is active in the disability community, so I have been well-educated on these matters. Last Sunday the Boston Globe had an editorial about the MBTA and the Ride which also referred to the “handicapped”, and I wrote a letter to the editor… when I heard the same term on the radio, I could do no less. I understand that language usage is constantly evolving and the population at large may not always be current with what various sectors deem appropriate, but I will continue to hold those who make their living with words to a higher standard. Thanks again.

  • James Hayes-Bohanan

    A much larger share of the “deficit” would be erased by shifting Big Dig costs away from the T. Let’s have reforms, better fare collection, and the like, but the REAL money is in putting debt back where it belongs. Since Gov. Cellucci and others failed to hold Bechtel accountable, the next-best thing is for those who use the highways to pay the costs. 

    Like many in greater Boston, I use both the T and private automobiles. When I’m using a car, every person who rides the T is doing me a favor, so I should support them, either through the general fund or — better — through gasoline taxes. Bechtel should never have been allowed to put the T on the ropes.

  • Dogzzarecool

    yup…rather fare increases than service cuts.  i am old so i have been hearing this same story for many many years now….it is not allarming….it is normal.  the T has always been on the verge of a financial crisis….same today as back in the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s….  Just raise the fares.

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