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The MBTA will fast track a 15- to 20-percent fare increase that could go into effect this fall. Transportation Secretary James Aloisi announced the move at a meeting of the MBTA board of directors on Thursday.
The push for higher fares comes because the T faces a $160-million deficit, falling advertising receipts and increased energy and fuel costs beyond what the authority originally estimated for its 2010 budget, Aloisi said.
"I want to solve for several years,"Aloisi said. "I think the only responsible and principled way to proceed here is to have a multiple-year solution."
A one-time fare increase would be one part of a temporary financing solution that covers two or three fiscal years. Aloisi also announced that significant service cuts are all but inevitable in order to contain costs.
"I think that in order to meet the gap that we may need to meet, the service cuts that we would put on the table would be serious and not trivial," he said.
The MBTA is expected to begin an expedited public process soon. The authority will schedule 12 open meetings before fare increases are likely to go into effect in the fall. The process has taken as long as a year for previous fare hikes, making this the fourth and potentially fastest fare increase in the past nine years.
Fares last increased by 27 percent in 2007.
Riders currently pay a $2 cash fare for subway trips, though most users pay $1.70 with the Charlie Card. Under the proposed fare hike, costs would rise to $2.40 for cash, and $2.05 per trip with a Charlie Card. Bus fares could increase from $1.25 to $1.50. Commuter rail trips could jump to over $9.
T officials had initally hoped that a partial bailout from the legislature, likely in the form of an increased state sales tax, would obviate the need for a fare increase. Lawmakers have pledged $100 million to avert a toll increase on the Massachusetts Turnpike, scheduled for July 1. Legislators have been less vocal in their support for the T.
But the T's financial problems are growing so rapidly, Aloisi said even if the legislature does come through with an estimated $160 million from a sales tax increase, it would not be enough to provide long-term financial stability for the MBTA.
"What about the impact of people not having the money to pay for the bus?" said Taisha O'Bryant, a representative of the T Riders Union, a transit-advocacy group.
"I mean it forces the secretary's hand when legislators do not want to step up, and I hope they hear me worldwide, citywide," O'Bryant said. "Riders are going to suffer. Riders are going to have the fare increase. And we get less service. What kind of sense does that make? Don't make sense to me."
This program aired on June 5, 2009.
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