Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

A roomful of commuters and elected officials
roundly rejected proposed MBTA fare hikes during a public meeting on Wednesday,
Feb. 27, at the State Transportation Building in Boston.

Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, outlined
the increases, which would go into effect July 1 and raise fares an average of
6.3 percent system-wide.

Under the proposal, the cost of a local bus
Charlie Card would increase to $1.80 from $1.70 while a subway Charlie Card
would rise to $2.40 from the current $2.25. The monthly LinkPass, which
provides unlimited bus and subway travel for one customer, would jump to $90
from $84.50, and a seven-day LinkPass would rise to $22.50 from $21.25.

The proposed fare increase would bring in
$32 million in additional revenue to help recoup losses against the budget
shortfall of $111 million projected for the next fiscal year.

The last hike came in July of 2016, which
raised fares an average of 9.3 percent across the system, but since that time,
the Legislature has passed a law limiting fare hikes to a maximum of 7
percent every two years.

After Poftak’s opening remarks, City
Councilor Michelle Wu presented T officials with a petition she circulated
calling for unlimited year-round passes for seniors and children, as well as a
lower fare for the city’s poorest residents, which had already garnered 2,700
signatures by the time the meeting commenced.

“This moment in history demands aggressive
action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” Wu said.
“Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing
Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities
beyond their home neighborhoods.”

State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents
East Boston, read from a letter on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation
urging the MBTA board of directors to hold off on fare hikes at this time.

“Public transportation is a vital resource
for residents of Boston, and especially for low-income individuals, seniors and
students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation,”

the letter read in part. “We realize fares bring needed revenue to the
operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher
fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right
balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services. We
believe that there needs to be a more in-depth discussion with the MBTA about
the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any
fare increase.”

James White, chairman of MBTA Accessibility
Advisory Committee for the past 18 years, advised against raising fare until
after planned improvements are made to the Red and Orange lines, including the
replacement of both fleets by 2023.

In response to the MBTA’s own projection
that a fare hike would amount to a 1.3-percent loss in ridership, State Rep.
Andy Vargas, who represents Haverhill, said, “At a time when we have increased
ridership on the T, we should be doing everything we can to encourage that.”

State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents
Brookline, took to the podium with a can of Arizona Iced Tea in hand.

costs 99 cents, says it right on the can,” he said. “It has cost 99
cents for 18 years. What the good people of Arizona Iced Tea figured out is if
you don’t improve the quality of the tea, you don’t raise the prices,”
Vitolo said before drinking from the can as the audience applauded him.

The fare increase would put an even bigger
burden on commuters living outside the city as illustrated by statements from
Egan Millard, a 27-year-old Weymouth resident who works in Cambridge and
currently pays $217.75 for his monthly commuter rail and subway pass.

“I, and I’m sure
most T riders, already feel we’re paying too much for such abysmal service,”
Millard said “Commuter rail service is so infrequent I have to plan my entire
day and sometimes week around it. I have lost, at this point, days of my life
on the T that I can’t get back.”

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Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

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