TOUGH MEDICINE AT THE “T”

T hearing

^ Boston City Council hearing on proposed MBTA fare increase. (photo via Tim McCarthy from Christina DiLisio)

—- —- —- —-

Both Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker — he via his MBTA Fiscal Control Board — now call for raising rider fares. It’s tough medicine. The expected increase of ten percent brings a T ride to $ 2.31, a bus trip from Salem to Haymarket to $ 4.95, a round trip commuter rail ticket from $ 4.20 to $ 4.65. Over a month’s commuting, a ten percent increase costs each rider about $ 7.50 additional — $ 90 for a full year.

(Read Mayor Walsh’s argument in favor of fare hikes here : http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/walsh-backs-mbta-fare-hike/ )

I suppose that an additional $ 90 isn’t a hard hit given the 60 percent DECREASE in the price of gasoline since last winter. But what if gasoline prices were to rise back up again ? The prospect worries me. I suspect it worries you.

That said, I support the fare rise, on one condition : that gt serviced NOT bed cut back. It is very unwise for T management to ask riders to pay more, yet at the same time eliminate late night service. It is worse than unwise. It insults. Pay more for less is about as bad a vibe as there is in the world of customer service.

Provided, however, that T service is not cut back — is actually expanded, as the T completes its committed Green Line extension to West Medford — the fare rise makes sense. Even after system-wide cost reforms that have saved about $ 100 million this year the T’s operation runs a deficit of about $ 84 million. (By deficit, I do not mean “loss.” The t is not a business and does not seek a profit. Shortfall from the T’s fare and tax revenues is what it faces.)

The MBTA is a public service paid for by taxpayers, riders, and pay-ins by municipalities that the T serves. All have a stake in kno0wing that their paid money will satisfy T operations; that the T will not, by mismanagement, or sloppy accounting, or by inside manipulations,. fall short of budget seeki8ng more funds than we all have committed to. The T cannot be a prodigal son wasting his allowance and begging Daddy for more. It must live within its allowance. If it doesn’t, are we not right to say “no more” ?

“No more”: is what the voters of our state have said. we have been heard, and today’s T is managed completely differently from yesterday’s. Cost sloppiness has been fixed. Inside scams have been exposed and will be ended. Unused T assets are being used. Disciplined accountability is in place and will likely stay in place for quite a while. Today, we the public can probably trust the T to do its job diligently.

If that is true, and I think it is, we can now grant the T additional revenue. A fare increase won’t solve the T’s massive “state of good repair” backlog, but it might very well do away with budget shorts. As long as the proposed fare increase treats every rider, and every route, equitably — I read that this basic fairness is not being applied — then let us do it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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