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MBTA moves Cambridge hearing to accommodate more people

Posted by Brock Parker  February 24, 2012 10:34 AM

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The MBTA has moved the location of a hearing next week about proposed fare increases and service cuts after Cambridge officials voiced concerns that a bigger venue was needed to accommodate the expected turnout.

The hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 6 p.m., will now be held in Cambridge City Hall instead of a nearby senior center.

Cambridge city councilors had voiced concerns in recent weeks that the senior center would not be large enough to accommodate a turnout on par with those seen in other communities, such as Medford, which recently had about 400 people attend a hearing about the T proposals.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email this morning that the MBTA has been trying to accommodate as many people as possible at the hearings.

“The turnout has been tremendous with more than 4,300 people attending the first twenty meetings,” Pesaturo said. “More than a thousand people have spoken eloquently and passionately about the important role that public transportation plays in their lives.”

The MBTA is proposing sharp fare increases for light rail and buses under one proposal to help offset a projected deficit of about $160 million. A second scenario would include smaller fare hikes, but much more extensive service cuts to offset the deficit.

Cambridge’s Community Development Department said that the second scenario includes cuts to 10 bus routes serving the city and would eliminate service for about 10,600 riders in Cambridge, out of the total weekday daily bus ridership of about 85,000 in the city.

Among the bus routes that would be eliminated under the second proposal is the 68 bus, which is the only route serving the main branch of the Cambridge public library.
The elimination of other 74, 75 and 78 buses on weekends would also severely limit transit service between Huron Village and Harvard Square, according to the city.

Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey told the Globe last weekend that he has heard from many customers that they would rather pay a little more than see service cut.

Brian Murphy, the assistant city manager for community development in Cambridge, has recommended that the MBTA increase fares by 25 percent to offset about half of its budget deficit.

But Murphy said that would still leave a deficit of about $80 million, and told the Cambridge City Council Wednesday that his recommendation is that state legislators should look to fund that amount from sources outside of the MBTA. Murphy’s department is also recommending that going forward the MBTA should look at fare increases every two years.

The MBTA hearing in Cambridge will be held in the City Council Chambers. More information about how the proposed MBTA fare hikes and service cuts would affect Cambridge can be found on the city's website.

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