Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation began the process to raise fares and implement service cuts throughout the MBTA system. The current proposals include eliminating ferry service, some bus routes, and weekend and late-night service for the commuter rail as of July 1. Fare increases would mean that CharlieCard holders could pay $1.75 for bus rides that are now $1.25, and subway rides that are now $1.70 could go up to $2.40. The MBTA board will vote for a plan in April, after a period of public commenting through a series of public meetings (download PDF of public meeting schedule).
Public transportation systems throughout the state are in dire financial straits, including the MBTA and regional transit authorities. While there is no doubt that the proposed fare hikes and service cuts are drastic, the MBTA’s current financial woes require drastic action to solve: the MBTA is facing a $161 million gap in next year’s budget—a gap which is projected to continue growing in years to come.
The MBTA’s desperate situation is due to pressures from both sides of the balance sheet. As the Boston Business Journal reported,
“In 2000, the Legislature transferred some $3.3 billion in debt onto the T’s books. In exchange, the T got 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue. It turned out to be a bad deal for the T, which has been underwater ever since.”
Why was it a bad deal for the T? The MBTA spends fully 25 percent of its annual budget on servicing that debt, while at the same time sales tax revenues have stagnated, failing to keep up with rising costs.
Make your voice heard – you can make a difference on the outcome of these proposed fare hikes and service cuts. According to the Boston Globe:
“Members of the board overseeing the T and Department of Transportation, who hold final approval over cuts or far increases, stressed yesterday that they will rely heavily on public comment at 20 meeting to be held across the region.”
A strong MBTA is vital to the economic, social and environmental health of our region. People depend on public transportation to access jobs, education, health care, and social and cultural resources. Hundreds of thousands of people each day choose to use the MBTA instead of driving, reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health.
You have until March 1 to tell the MBTA what you think:
[pulledquote]Make a difference on the outcome of these proposed fare hikes and service cuts[/pulledquote]
- By attending a public meeting (PDF)
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- By regular mail: MBTA ATTN: Fare Proposal Committee, Ten Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116
- By phone: 617-222-3200 / TTY 617-222-5146
Join MAPC’s transportation finance campaign
Hopefully this conversation about the future of the MBTA will lead to a larger conversation investing in our transportation system across the Commonwealth. MAPC outlined many options for increasing revenue in our Transportation Finance recommendations. Highlights include raising the gas tax to reflect inflation, moving to electronic fare collection, and studying new options for the MBTA, such as restructuring price of fares for peak/off-peak service hours.
MAPC is also a member of the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition, which advocates for a strong and equitable transportation system and recently released MAXED OUT, a report detailing the urgent financial situation of Massachusetts’ transportation system.
To find out more or sign up for MAPC’s transportation finance campaign, please email Charlie Ticotsky.