Dig Deeper into Your Wallet to Ride the T Tomorrow

Kathleen Nay

Starting tomorrow, MBTA users will be reaching deeper into their pockets to shell out for their daily rides. The greater expense may mean that some users choose to drive, while others will miss important appointments, school, or even work, because they are unable to afford the trip.

CLF has opposed the steep fare hikes since they were first proposed last January. Despite great public outcry against the measure, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board voted in March for a 9.3 percent hike across the board, with some riders (like those with monthly passes) taking a harder hit than others. What’s more, such a dramatic spike in cost defies legislative intention to cap fare increases at 5 percent annually.

Many of us will face tough decisions as a result of the new fare costs. Hardest hit will be low- and middle-income commuters who don’t own cars or who have to decide between riding the T and keeping the lights on each month. For many of us, public transportation isn’t merely a choice of convenience – it’s a lifeline. We depend on the T every day – without it, we risk losing our jobs, having to skip important appointments, and interruptions in our education.

Additionally, some transit users will likely view driving as the cheaper or more convenient option. Unfortunately, when commuters turn away from public transportation and toward their cars, it causes greater traffic congestion and poorer air quality – and pours more greenhouse gases into our already overheating climate. These environmental consequences, in turn, affect all of us who live and work in Greater Boston.

The Control Board’s rationale for the fare hike? Funding for capital improvement projects. But the MBTA doesn’t have the capacity to implement such improvements for at least a year. Having seen little, if any, improvement in service so far, MBTA riders are understandably upset about having to pay more – especially since this is the fifth fare increase we have had to absorb since 2004 alone.

This rate hike unfairly puts the burden for the MBTA’s dire financial straits onto the shoulders of its customers. At CLF, we’ve fought hard to keep public transportation affordable, because reliable, accessible transportation systems are essential to thriving, clean, and healthy communities.

The MBTA Control Board, however, has placed keeping Boston’s communities economically and environmentally healthy low on its list of priorities. Fortunately, our state legislators have not.

Recognizing the T’s importance to our economy, our communities, and our health, legislators took steps yesterday to ensure that riders are not surprised by such steep fare hikes in the future. Language included in the just-released state budget deal for the upcoming fiscal year limits fare increases to 7 percent every two years and clarifies language to ensure that all fares and passes are coved by this cap. While CLF will not give up on the ultimate goal of limiting fare increase to 5 percent, every other year, which more closely tracks inflation, this is a significant step forward in the right direction.

 

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