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North Shore commuters greet MBTA fare hike with mixed reactions

Posted by Ryan Mooney  July 2, 2012 11:29 AM

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They are probably not as abundant as a usual Monday morning given the pseudo-holiday week with Fourth of July celebrations across the nation on Wednesday, but commuters are still packing train station platforms on the North Shore for the first workday under the new MBTA fare structure.

The fare hike that went into effect on Sunday - an average increase of 23 percent across the transit system - has drawn mixed reactions, including equal parts frustration and understanding from some.

"I kind of expect it to happen every now and then so, I don't know I just kind of take it in stride," Ben Johnson, a resident of Boston Street in Salem, said as he waited for a train to Boston at Salem Station. "It kind of sucks, but you can't expect the rates to always stay the same."

"I think they're just doing what they need to do," said Jeff Novak, a construction coordinator who commutes to Boston from Salem three to five times per week. "I'm not happy about it, obviously, it's expensive and it's a burden, but it's not unexpected and I would expect there will be even more hikes and stuff in the future."

Some argue that the T is going about trying to close its $160 million deficit the wrong way by placing the burden on riders without seeking alternative ways of bridging the gap.

"I think that there are plenty of other ways that they can raise money besides hiking fares," Sarah Hillard, a Salem commuter, explained. "Advertising on the train, they haven't changed that in months...they could advertise on the train and make a ton of money.

"It's a little unnecessary to hike it up that much."

A single ride to Boston from Salem will now cost $6.75, but it's the commuters who use passes to ride daily that are really feeling the brunt of the change. One couple from Peabody waiting at Salem Station for a day-trip to Boston was unaware of the fare increase, but Johnson says he had to budget out roughly $40 extra in travel expenses per month for his Zone 3 pass, which takes him to work every weekday.

"I guess that money's got to come from somewhere," Johnson said.

Beverly riders in from the main station at Beverly Depot or the Montserrat station will now pay $7.25 for a single ride and $228 for a monthly pass, while riders from any one of the city's other three stations will pay $8 for a single ride and $252 for a monthly pass.

The renovations at Salem Station expected to be complete by the fall of 2014 - including a 715-space parking garage, and overhaul of the platform and waiting area - could be coming at the right time, especially if rates go up again, as Salem might see an influx of commuters from Beverly and other surrounding communities.

Salem Station is in Zone 3, for which commuters pay $212 for a monthly pass, $16 cheaper than a monthly pass from Beverly Depot or Montserrat (Zone 4) and $40 cheaper than the Beverly Farms, Pride Crossing, or North Beverly stations (Zone 5).

"I think you'll get a lot of people who come from even further down the line just for that reason," Novak said.

But those with no cheaper alternative - such as Hillard, who takes a short walk to the platform from her home - have to grit their teeth and deal with it.

"There's not much you can do about it," Novak conceded.

Ryan Mooney can be reached at globe.mooney@yahoo.com.

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