Show Up and Speak Out on MBTA Fare Hikes

Rafael Mares | @RafaelMares2

In December, CLF members joined more than 2,400 concerned MBTA riders from across Massachusetts in calling on Governor Charlie Baker to maintain current services and keep fare increases affordable on the state’s beleaguered transit system.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s Fiscal and Management Control Board has yet to catch on to what the riding public wants. Instead, on January 4, the board released two possible scenarios for fare increases that would go into effect in July of this year. One would raise fares by almost 7%; the other would hike them by almost 10% on average. Both left a more reasonable proposal of a 4.5% increase on the table. See below for how you can make your voice heard on these scenarios.

Unreasonable Fare Hikes Punish the Victim
The Fiscal and Management Control Board was created last year in the wake of the MBTA’s winter service crisis. Weeks of record-setting snowfall left riders shivering in the cold as they waited for unpredictable (and too-often-canceled) buses and trains.

After last winter’s failures, the Board should be acting on behalf of transit riders, many of whom rely on the MBTA as their sole source of transportation to work, school, the doctor, or the grocery store. But instead, the Board is punishing the victim by proposing unreasonable fare hikes that will only hurt the people who need the T the most.

Fare hikes and reduced service proposed by the MBTA Control Board leave riders footing the bill for the T’s ongoing problems.

Fare hikes and reduced service proposed by the MBTA Control Board leave riders footing the bill for the T’s ongoing problems.

Five Fare Increases in 12 Years is Too Many
The MBTA needs new revenue to fix its problems, yes. But over the last dozen years, public transit riders have already seen their fares increase four times – this latest proposal would be the fifth hike since 2004. Tolls on our bridges and tunnels, however, haven’t increased at all in the same time period.

The toll for a round trip through the Ted Williams Tunnel or Sumner Tunnel has remained at $3.00 per vehicle for 14 years. But if one of the Control Board’s proposed fare increases goes into effect, a transit trip could cost up to $4.50 for one round trip.

Longer Waits on Buses, More Cars on the Road
Local monthly bus passes could see an even bigger price surge – of between 16% and 19%. This huge increase could force those who are least able to afford higher fares to switch from buying costly monthly passes to paying with cash when boarding a bus. More cash fares could make waiting and loading times longer, leading to slower and more inefficient bus service overall.

What’s more, when fares go up, many people abandon public transit in favor of their cars. This time, too, commuters that have the option to commute by car may make the switch if they find that using the MBTA is no longer cost effective, particularly after what they have been through last winter and the early going of this one.

More cars on the road from those abandoning the T will mean an even more congested commute for drivers into Boston, plus more air pollution for the rest of us – which no one living and working in Boston wants to see!

There’s Still Time to Make Your Voice Heard
Fortunately, the Control Board is open to ideas from the public. There are two ways you can speak up:

  1. Submit a comment using this online tool.
  2. Attend a public meeting. The Board has scheduled a series of meetings where your voice can be heard. The more people who oppose these large fare increases that can attend the better:

Back Bay Station Kiosk: January 19, 5–7 p.m. (CR)
Boston, State Transportation Building: January 19, 5–7 p.m. (LN)
South Station Kiosk: January 20, 5–7 p.m. (CR)
Cambridge City Hall: January 20, 6–8 p.m. (LN)
North Station Kiosk: January 21, 5–7 p.m. (CR)
Lynn, Breed Middle School: January 25, 6–8 p.m. (FH+CR)
Brockton, West Middle School: January 26, 6–8 p.m. (FH)
Malden High School: January 27, 6–8 p.m. (FH+CR)
Concord Town Hall: January 28, 6–8 p.m. (FH+CR)
Worcester, Union Station: February 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (FH+CR)
Boston, State Transportation Building: February 2, 5–7 p.m. (FH)
Mansfield High School: February 3, 6–8 p.m. (CR)
Natick, Walnut Hill School: February 3, 6–8 p.m. (CR)
Newton, Bigelow Middle School: February 4, 6–8 p.m. (FH)
Norwood, Coakley Middle School: February 8, 6–8 p.m. (CR)
Woburn City Hall: February 8, 6–8 p.m. (CR)
Chelsea High School: February 9, 6–8 p.m. (FH)
Roxbury Community College: February 10, 6–8 p.m. (FH)
Weymouth High School: February 11, 6–8 p.m. (FH)

Meeting topics covered: FH=Fare Hikes; CR=Commuter Rail Schedule; LN=Late Night Service

(Note that some meetings cover other topics that you may be interested in, and meeting times can be subject to change. Please be sure to check the MBTA’s website for the most updated information.)

Focus Areas

People & Communities



5 Responses to “Show Up and Speak Out on MBTA Fare Hikes”

  1. Caitriona Cooke

    If fare hikes are necessary, I could accept that in return for better service, but I wonder what the impact would be on revenue if everyone who used the T paid for it. Every time, I ride a bus or subway, I see fare evaders, sometimes with the cooperation of the MBTA staff

  2. L M Davis

    I never got a 7% raise never mind a 10% hike. Fare increases should be in step with people’s ability to afford them. I think fare increases in the area of 3 to 5% would be much more tolerable.

  3. Stephen Kaiser


    I am puzzled by the lethora of “meetings” and not “hearings” about the various actions on service and fares. I went to the Cambridge City Hall meeting on Late Night Service, and there were about 30 people there with Charlers Planck. Instead of seeking out new ideas, he used the time to defend everything that the MBTA was planning to do — in the face of a Control Board vote already adopted to shut down the service. Vote first, have a meeting later to discuss — what way is that to do business?

    On your comment about “People are on overcrowded platforms in the morning and they take it anyway,” said Rafael Mares, the vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation. “Can you imagine how many people there are that would like to take the Red Line but don’t because of the conditions? There’s a huge demand of service, and it hasn’t been met because we don’t invest in the system.” We do have the example of London Transport — which had a formerly good system with diminished service. London used the expereience of the Olympics in a positive way and has invested billion into an overhaul of the rail transit system.

    London was running headways of about 5 minutes, similar to the Red Line. so with more trains they cut the headways in half. That in effect increased capacity by doubling it (the same as an increase of 100 percent). It was a surprise when London discovered an interesting result. Ridership went up by 50% very quickly. This was like your description of the reservoir of people who won’t ride transit because of poor service. Reduce headways and provide shorter headways as London has done, creates a transit inducement.

    Widening highways has the same effect — users coming out of the woodwork. The London experience suggests an elasticity of 0.5. The means for every new capacity for one person there will be an induced transit ridership of 0.5 riders. Simply increasing capacity by 100 people an hour, means that out of the woodwork come 50 new riders seeking better service.

    This is part of what I call a social dance of Service Refusal. The bureaucracy refuses to provide adequate service to the public, so many riders rufuse to acceprt what service is offered. In Boston, potential riders mayl be politically pro-transit, but anti-MBTA. The airlines are venturing into this swamp in a dangerous manner, squeezing passengers into smaller spaces on the planes and lettering them sit on the tarmac at airports for three hours or more. This is a refusal of service, but many air passengers are trapped into a monopoly/oligopoly situation.

    The discussion on the Red Line was very revealing. Stepahie showed that she could mix it up with the T expertsw, especially on matters of capacity. Her efforts on “Gridlock” in 1989 have never been matached for assessing the extreme variability in T servfice.

    And yesterday the T guys said nothing about bunching.

    Steve Kaiser


  4. Rayleen Nunez

    I am dependent upon the Ride. Generally my trips are pretty short, from the South End to Harvard Vanguard next to the Back Bay Station, or to Harvard Vanguard on Brookline Ave. Finally I must go to either Beth Israel or Deaconess Hospital about every three months. Since I am frequently at the Doctor’s, a $34.00 fare is a bit high considering that my income is $950 per month and i take a total of 14 medications daily. Our fares were just raised 2-3 years ago. You can’t keep bleeding the poor for your excesses. Please find your money elsewhere.

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