Thursday, July 18, 2024

There’s a good rundown of what’s expected for mass transit — an average 23 percent hike in fares, but no dramatic loss of service — up at the Cambridge Chronicle site via the Statehouse News Service. (The only flaw spotted so far: The story says there’s no mention of applying unused snow and ice removal money toward the immediate $161 million deficit; the actual report says $5 million will come from the surplus.)

“The MBTA has done an excellent job in continuing to find efficiencies and cut costs. They have responded to an overwhelming level of public input on the earlier proposals by minimizing service cuts,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “However, the 23 percent fare increase proposed today is still a significant increase. It will cut daily ridership by over 5 percent at a time when we should be encouraging more people to use public transit. The fare hike will be a serious hit for people with disabilities who use The Ride frequently.”

The proposal raises subway fares to $2 from $1.70, up 17 percent, and bus rides to $1.50 from $1.25, up 25 percent. Monthly passes would cost $70 from $59, up 19 percent. The state Department of Transportation could okay the plan next week, although April 15 is the date of the official budget adoption.

The T is also counting on an additional $51 million from a trust fund for vehicle inspection fees, the Chronicle says.

“Even if the T implements the proposal released today and balances its Fiscal 2013 budget, it will be in the same situation next year with a projected $100 million deficit,” Draisen said. “Riders have been asked to bear the burden of nearly half of this budget deficit, even though that deficit arose in large part because the Commonwealth insisted the T pay for projects associated with the Big Dig … any short-term fix must be a prelude to a comprehensive strategy to address structural deficits in the state’s transportation system — roads, rails, buses, sidewalks and bike paths.”

There will be limited bus, rail and ferry reduction and a “watch list” created to spot other little-used routes to shut down, but only four bus lines are targeted now: the 48, in Jamaica Plain; the 355, from Boston to Burlington; the 500, from Boston to Newton; and the 710, from North Medford through Malden. No such cuts are projected for Cambridge.

Huge increases in The Ride, meant for use by the disabled, have also been avoided. The entire document from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority — in readable, PowerPoint format — is here.

Among the main steps officials highlight in the report:

Off-peak discount fares for seniors are coming. Within the next 16 to 18 months as the technology is available, off-peak fares for seniors will be introduced, reducing the cost to ride the T during less busy hours when compared against a new peak fare price.

Numerous individuals and groups commented to the MBTA that a fare increase similar to past increases of 25 percent would be preferable to the proposals. We are at a 23 percent increase.

The recommended service reductions affect as few as an eighth of the customers (1.2 million annual trips vs. 9.1 million) who would have been affected under the original scenarios.

MassDOT, MBTA and MassPort are finalizing plans for MassPort to provide financial support for transit services benefiting the airport, including options to provide free fares on certain segments of the Silver Line.

MBTA is opening a dialogue with universities and colleges to implement a U-pass program for students and faculty.

MassDOT, MBTA and EHS have developed an option to allow federal reimbursements for eligible medical trips provided by The Ride. This, along with the premium service fare structure, in-person assessments and other reforms will allow the T to provide service for the next year without major service reductions.

Enhanced patrols and programs to curtail fare evasion.

Reaction was mixed. Comedian Dana Jay Bein weighed in by saying, “The MBTA plans to hike fares 23 percent. That means I’ll be 23 percent more pissed off when service isn’t on schedule.”