By Barbara Jacobson
Starting on January 17, 2012, the MBTA began a series of Public Workshops to discuss the impending fare increases and service reductions for public transportation throughout the Boston metro area. On January 23, I attended a public meeting at Roxbury Community College and the general consensus from the crowd: anger and disappointment. In order to speak to both the MBTA officials, you had to take a number. I was number 19. Speaker number one, a middle-aged African American woman who resides in West Roxbury, mad a poignant statement. She said, “We, the working poor, are not politicians, we are survivors.” The majority of people who use public transit do not have any other means of transportation. By eliminating mobility, people feel helpless and powerless.
Two scenarios are proposed. Both proposals eliminate the E line subway and Mattapan trolley service on weekends, Commuter Rail service after 10 p.m. daily as well as on weekends, all ferry services, increase the standard single subway ride 50% from $2.00 to $3.00 and increase the RIDE service fares to 2 times the Charlie-Ticket fixed route base price.
The first proposal eliminates 24 weekday bus routes and 29 weekend bus routes. The cost of a single subway ride, with a CharlieCard, would shift from $1.70 to $2.40 per ride, a 41% increase. A monthly pass for bus and subway access would increase 35.6% from $59.00 to $80.00.
In summation: scenario one cuts 25% of all bus routes and affects 1% of the population. They estimate that it will save $38.3 million in operating costs. The number of riders affected by the removal of transit services is 9.6 million.
The second proposal eliminates 100 bus routes, both for weekday and weekend riders as well as “revising” major suburban bus routes. The cost of a single subway ride, with a CharlieCard would increase to $2.25, a 32% increase. A monthly pass for bus and subway access would increase 32.2% from $59.00 to $78.00.
In summation: scenario two cuts 76% of all bus routes and affects 25% of the population. They estimate that it will save $78.4 million in operating costs. The number of riders affected by the removal of transit services is 38.1 million.
I don’t think people will be willing to sacrifice a 76% reduction in bus routes to save two dollars a month. Already, people are angry that at a minimum 25% of bus routes will be cut even though fares are rising dramatically. I want to think that these cuts will encourage people to seek out and utilize alternate forms of transportation. However, the vast majority of the population that is affected are those living in ex-urban and suburban areas, the elderly and the disabled.
A monthly CTA pass in Chicago is $86. A monthly MTA pass in New York is $104. In both cities, the subway runs 24 hours a day, even at limited service. In Boston, the subway runs until 12:30 AM and wants to charge citizens $80 for a monthly pass. Something isn’t adding up here. The MBTA has a 5.2 billion dollar debt and every dollar from fare riders goes to pay down that debt.
Offer incentives to companies who invest in routes near office complexes
I would like to see the MBTA offer incentives to companies who invest in routes near office complexes. With the state of the economy, a lot of jobs are moving outside of the city and it is growing more and more difficult to use the MBTA as a means of transportation. For example, someone who lives in Boston may need to take multiple buses to arrive at a job in say, Walpole.
Offer more Park & Ride stations and a bike-on-board fare
I think that offering more Park & Ride stations, such as the one at Forrest Hills on the orange line, would be an excellent incentive for cyclists to take the train. As a cyclist, I would not be opposed to a bike-on-board fare. In the event that you need to bring your bicycle on the train, you pay slightly more. The cost could be used to create bike specific zones in subway cars that have bike hooks, etc.
I am not opposed to paying more. I am opposed to paying more but getting less. I want to see the MBTA improve the public transit in Boston so that it is reliable and environmentally responsible. As a result of these cuts, my hope is that Boston will become one of the most bike friendly cities in America. Maybe people will boycott the MBTA and start biking throughout the city, since MBTA transportation is growing increasingly difficult. Maybe companies will begin to realize the cost of commuting and encourage employees to work remotely. There are so many variables to consider; I just hope that people don’t turn to cars as the answer, but this is certainly a risk. What is certain is that cuts in service will be made. The question is: how much will be cut and what will it cost us?
For more information, please check out the following websites:
MBTA Fare Proposal: http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=23567