MBTA Officials Outline Fare Hike Plans

MBTA fares will increase by between 4 and 7 percent on nearly all service options, rising 10 cents for bus and subway rides, according to a plan officials will present to the public.

The average 5 percent fare increase would go into effect July 1, generating between $20 million and $24.5 million in new revenue and helping the Transportation Department meet the new requirement for producing a larger portion of its own revenue – which was part of the 2013 law raising gas and tobacco taxes to pay for transportation investments.

Students and people with disabilities will receive some breaks. Fares for The Ride door-to-door transit service will remain unchanged, while the MBTA will offer a seven-day student pass for $26 – a $2 discount from the current cost of a seven-day pass. The T will also offer a five-day student pass for the same $26 price, which is a $1 increase.

MBTA General Manger Beverly Scott said the idea is to allow parents to limit their children’s MBTA travel to weekdays. The passes are only available for purchase through schools.

Strategic Initiatives Senior Director Charles Planck said the fare increases would have an impact on ridership of less than 1 percent, or 2.8 million to 3.8 million trips. After a 23 percent fare increase in 2012, the MBTA did not see as large a drop-off in ridership as it had expected.

The single-ride fares for students and seniors will go up 5 cents each. People using a disposable Charlie Ticket, which is more costly per ride than the reusable Charlie Card, will see their subway fares go up by 15 cents while Charlie Ticket bus fares will increase by 10 cents.

Monthly passes for the commuter rail will go up between $5 and $17, according to Planck. A summary shows commuter boat fares going up $13 per month. The Link pass for bus and subway will increase from $70 to $75. Commuter rail trips will increase by 10 cents to 50 cents depending on the distance traveled.

Before the new fares go into effect, MBTA officials will hold meetings throughout the service area.

“I really don’t want people coming in here saying, ‘We didn’t get a chance to talk at those meetings,’” said Massachusetts Transportation Board Chairman John Jenkins. He said, “Err on the side of having too many meetings.”

When they raised taxes to fund transportation in 2013, the House and Senate required MassDOT to become more self-sustaining, while also limiting MBTA fare increases to no more than 5 percent every two years. MassDOT has also proposed hiking RMV fees for driving tests, vehicle inspections and registration.

“I think one of our goals should be to provide one of the most cost-efficient transportation systems possible,” said board member Dominic Blue, who said fare increases should be a last-resort.

The MBTA’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget includes 284 new personnel, including 133 to operate a pilot program of weekend service into the early morning. The new budget will also include more people to oversee the commuter rail contract, which was won by Keolis Commuter Services.

The MBTA is turning a corner on debt, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Davis told the board members.

“We’ll actually pay off more debt than we’ll issue over the next five years,” Davis said.

In the coming days, the MBTA is also instituting a new policy, allowed by an arbitrator’s award, that requires operators to spend 10 hours off the job in between shifts, which is up from a mandatory six hours off the clock, Davis said.

The budget also calls for a climate change specialist who will assess the system’s level of hurricane awareness, Davis said. He said in 1996 flooding of the Muddy River inundated the tunnels around Kenmore Station, requiring $15 million in repairs.

“We believe that we need to start looking at additional ways to protect our assets in the event there were to be another storm,” said Davis, who said there is a federal grant program.

Davis said there is a “long-term strategy” to remove cash from the system, and a shorter term goal of repairing fare boxes in the subway system and on buses.

“I’m seeing too many fare gates out of service and too many bus fare boxes out of service,” said Davis.

This article was originally published on March 25, 2014.


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