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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MBTA concedes cuts, raises fares

Published: April 5, 2012
Section: News

Amid criticism over severe service cuts, the MBTA revised its budget proposal last week in a change that would raise fares an average of 23 percent but only result in minor service cuts. The price of the commuter rail and the 553 and 554 buses that many commuting students use will experience a fare hike but will not be limiting service. These changes will take effect July 1.

The announcement came after two months of the MBTA suggesting both fare increases and service cuts—including the Fitchburg commuter rail line that services Brandeis—to alleviate the $160 million deficit that they face in the upcoming fiscal year.

Under this new proposal students taking the commuter rail from Brandeis to Boston will pay approximately $6 instead of $4.75; subway riders using a CharlieCard will pay $2 instead of $1.70; and bus riders will pay $1.50 instead of $1.25. The MBTA last raised fares in 2007.

“Of course I don’t like that there are higher fares, but compared to previous proposals, I am more willing to accept this one,” Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12 told The Hoot via e-mail. “I think it will be more of a strain on students, but I doubt the ridership will decrease. Maybe more students would be interested in the Riverside station to avoid a $6 commuter rail ride, and we’ll try to find a way to provide the Riverside access. Honestly though, I am just glad our service to Boston is still open.”

The MBTA was able to concede to the public, who demanded that service not be cut, by finding funding elsewhere. They plan to use $7 million in remaining snow and ice money left over from the mild winter and $5 million from a deal to lease the North Station parking garage. The MBTA also plans to use $51 million from the the surplus remaining from when the state’s motor vehicle inspection program raised the cost of inspection stickers to $29. In order to use this money, the Legislature must first alter a state law that earmarks this money for improving motor vehicle air quality.

“As we read the statute, we didn’t believe the MBTA fell under that, but frankly I can’t think of any other better air-quality improvement than getting people on public transportation and out of their cars,” Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said. “So we believe this is an appropriate use of that surplus, to at least give the MBTA fiscal flexibility to keep service running.” These alternative funding sources will lower the amount of money that MBTA riders need to make up to about $90 million, Davey said.

The MBTA reached these proposals after, according to the MBTA website, “nearly 6,000 riders attended 31 public meetings, with nearly 2,000 individuals offering public comment on our proposals. In addition, we received 5,850 e-mails and more than 400 letters on the proposals.”

Last week, when the MBTA was still discussing cutting commuter rail service on weekends and at night, Rosen and Vice President Gloria Park ’13 penned a letter to the MBTA entreating them not to cut service as “should the MBTA go through their their proposals, Brandeis University will be crippled.” The letter continued: “The MBTA is considering cutting our commuter rail service during the exact times that we use it most. We use the MBTA especially during the weekends … Moreover, we have a significant number of commuter students who would not be able to attend school without the 553 and 554 buses.”

With the new proposals, the commuter rail service will not be changed and the 553 and 554 buses will continue running. Despite these new proposals, however, Rosen and Park intend to edit the letter and send it anyways. “As of now, we intend to send it,” Rosen told The Hoot. “Though voting by the MBTA board takes place tomorrow. We will edit it to advocate for a better long term solution (since this arrangement is only for a year). We will take out much of the original text and edit it to fit this new proposal. We’ll also send it out for approval by the Student Body—probably after break.” The original letter had 445 signatures.

Although the MBTA is considering these proposals to alleviate the following fiscal year’s deficit, this is a one-year plan. Next year there may be a harsher winter and the state’s motor vehicle inspection program is only a one-year measure. “I can’t emphasize enough this is a one-year solution,” Davey said. “And all things being the same, we will be back in the same position a year from now, looking at service cuts and potentially more fare increases.”