The announcement of a fare increase is never welcome news for transportation users, and Tuesday’s bombshell from the MBTA that it is proposing a hike of between 35% and 43% across the board come July, accompanied by drastic service cuts, made it a very unhappy New Year around the Commonwealth. CLF, along with our fellow members of Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) — a diverse coalition of Massachusetts organizations working for an environmentally sustainable, reliable and affordable transportation system — oppose a fare increase that by itself can’t begin to fix the T’s financial problems and is inherently unfair.
T4MA objects to the MBTA’s proposal because it attempts to solve a much larger problem of insufficient funding for public transportation exclusively on the back of transit riders, who are traveling in ways that reduce traffic and benefit the environment. Any fare increase should be part of a comprehensive financial plan that addresses not only the MBTA’s operating deficit for at least the next several years, but also provides the funds needed to address the T’s maintenance and capital needs without further driving up debt service costs.
Moreover, a blanket fare increase affecting the bus, subway, and commuter rail system at the same rate takes into account neither the different needs of different transit users nor the varied costs of providing transit for buses, the subway, and commuter rail. The result would be to disproportionately burden the transit users who can least afford it, particularly bus riders.
And it’s not just public transportation that’s chronically underfunded and nearing collapse. It’s our roads and bridges and the entire transportation system in Massachusetts. Likewise, it is not just public transportation that is supported by state and federal government — the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges is heavily subsidized. As both drivers and public transportation users share the benefits of a working transportation system–from easier access to where we need to go to reduced congestion to cleaner air–so must they share the burden of financing it. Any fare increases must be paired with other revenue-generating mechanisms with a goal of funding a transportation system that works for everyone.
At a MassDOT Board of Directors meeting Wednesday, board members expressed deep concern about the MBTA’s proposal. T and MassDOT officials said that the public’s input will be key in finalizing a plan.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the MBTA’s proposals in a series of hearings that will be held around the state from mid-January through March. CLF and other T4MA members will be filing comments and testifying at the hearings to ensure that the interests of our various memberships are addressed in crafting the final proposal. We encourage you to attend a hearing and join us in calling for a plan that pairs any proposed increase with other revenue-generating mechanisms and fairly shares the burden of maintaining and improving our transportation system.
For more on the fare increase and how people are responding, check out some of the media coverage: