T weighs options on fare increases
A single subway ride could soar to $3.25, a monthly bus and subway pass could hit $80, and a commuter rail pass from the farthest suburbs could climb to $338 under one proposal prepared for the MBTA to balance its budget, according to documents obtained by the Globe Wednesday.
The proposals would raise the price of most trips and passes by 20 to 50 percent. They emerged from analyses prepared for the T by the region’s apolitical Central Transportation Planning Staff and shared with some members of the MBTA’s official Rider Oversight Committee.
One scenario would triple the current 30-cent surcharge imposed on subway riders who use paper CharlieTickets — printed by automated fare vending machines — instead of the reloadable plastic CharlieCards. Under that plan, CharlieCard subway fares would rise from $1.70 to $2.35 and CharlieTicket fares from $2 to $3.25, a 63 percent increase.
Mass. Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey cautioned that the T has not released any formal proposals and would present options in January for fare increases and service cuts taking effect July 1. He said the T will hold up to 16 workshops to gather public input before the board of directors votes in the spring.
“I don’t want to release [the proposals], which could be controversial, in the middle of the holidays,” Davey said. “I think that’s not fair to our customers. I don’t think we’ve ever had a fare-increase or service-cut scenario that we didn’t adjust once we put it out for public comment.”
Davey spoke with reporters after an MBTA board meeting at which members of the T Riders Union decried the potential changes for putting the greatest burden on students, people with disabilities, and the poor.
“The MBTA is a lifeline for these riders,” five members of the union, a ridership group that advocates for people who depend on public transportation, wrote in a letter presented to the MBTA’s general manager and board. “They rely on the system to get them from their homes to jobs, schools, doctor’s appointments, churches, and grocery and retail stores.”
In testimony, members said the state instead should provide more direct tax support or at least relieve the MBTA of some of its $9 billion in debt and interest. Close to half of that was inherited in 2000, when the Legislature enacted a plan known as forward funding, intended to make the T self-sufficient. Part of that was tied to expansion that was mandated to offset the environmental impacts of the Big Dig project.
Davey said such relief can come only from the Legislature and governor, unlikely given the state’s budget constraints, the sour economy, and a reluctance to raise taxes.
“In the absence of some other kind of relief, we can only work with the tools that we have,” Davey said. “And the tools that we have are doing everything we can to squeeze efficiencies out of our system, changing our product — which is our service — or changing the price of our product, which is the fares.”