Earlier this year, Governor Baker proposed legislation that would have made the MBTA more expensive and less reliable. In particular, Gov. Baker’s bill would have removed the current limits on fare increases. (For a more detailed analysis, see the May 2015 CLF blog post, “How NOT to Fix the MBTA: Governor Baker’s Reform Bill.”)
Now a redraft of the transit legislation is moving forward in the Massachusetts legislature. This new bill does not include fare increases, which is a positive sign! But there is still a danger that fare increase language will be added back in. That’s why it’s urgent that you act now and contact the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Tell them to leave in place the current limits on fare increases, so that riders are protected from big and unpredictable fare hikes.
Under current law, the MBTA is already allowed to raise fares by 5% every other year. This structured approach to fare increases protects Massachusetts residents by making fares more affordable and predictable. It is also considered a best practice among other transit agencies across the country.
But Gov. Baker and others have proposed instead allowing the MBTA to raise fares at any time, which could lead to steep and unpredictable increases. Removing those limits on fare increases would be an economic and environmental disaster. When prices go up, low-and-middle-income people are hardest hit.
We’ve been here before. Before 2013, the MBTA was allowed to increase fares without limitation or a planned schedule. As a result, the MBTA wouldn’t raise fares for years, but then they would suddenly propose large increases — leaving all of us who use the T to deal with fare shock. As a result, some high-school students couldn’t go to school every day, seniors skipped doctors appointments, and people across Massachusetts faced other hard choices.
In short, some riders may be forced to choose between getting to work or school on transit and paying for other essentials like food and utilities. Other riders will switch to driving, because taking public transportation no longer seems like a cost saving. This additional driving then increases fossil fuel emissions and contributes to climate change.