Latest information from Metro news is that members of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Advisory Board have devised a potential alternative solution to solving the $161 million budget gap without putting the entire burden on just the riders through increased fares and severely decreased services.
Previously proposed plans, by the T, to help eradicate the MBTA’s financial deficit called for extreme fare increases and the elimination of two dozen bus routes throughout the Greater Boston Area; or alternatively, the discontinuation of approximately 100 routes in a plan to balance fare hikes and service reductions. These initial proposals caused much fear and frustration among almost 300 MBTA commuters who attended the public hearing held at Newton’s Memorial Hall on the evening of February 16th, 2012, according to an article on Boston.com. These residents represented many others who rely heavily on the MBTA bus services, as they would otherwise have no way of accessing wider transit systems, running errands and visiting friends and family.
The board reported that the new proposal could generate $91.6 million in new revenue, as well as acquiring another $79 million in savings without affecting MBTA services at all and only increasing fares by 25 percent. In terms of what would need to happen, the proposal would call for MBTA Transit Police Department costs to be absorbed by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, while ferry services and other waterfront assets would be taken over by Massport. It was also suggested that Massport subsidize the Silver Line service to Logan Airport. These actions could effectively take care of nearly $70 million of the MBTA’s total $161 million debt, reported Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe.
For regular commuters and T riders, there would still be an increase in fares, but the MBTA Advisory Board has put forward suggestions to minimizing that change. Universities, public venues and institutions that also benefit from the MBTA services, through free advertising and easy public transit access, would be asked to donate more than $10 million in funding to support the continuation of T services, while those attending concerts and sporting events at certain venues would get a 50 cent surcharge added to their ticket price; a small fee to maintain convenient transportation to and from those busy and highly trafficked areas. Students taking advantage of the reduced fares would be required to pay an annual fee of $10, which, spread out over the course of the year, would even out to a little over $1 per month. Additionally, the proposal would also call for an MBTA employee wage freeze for the 2013 fiscal year.
Brian Kane, the MBTA Advisory Board’s budget and policy analyst, does admit that the plan is not perfect, but it is a feasible goal for covering the T’s deficit by the spring deadline. And for the lower-income, elderly, and disabled residents of the Greater Boston Area, it may also be a much more accessible change.
Final votes from the T board are scheduled to occur in April 2012, and until then, members of the public are encouraged to attend future public hearings and add their input to the discussion.
For more information, and to Join the Discussion, on MBTA Fare and Service Changes, please go to www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta.
Photo by Adam E. Moreira, Wikipedia.