Advocates ask MBTA leaders to limit fare hikes

MBTA riders could be in for a fare hike next year. –The Boston Globe

Transportation advocates on Monday urged MBTA leaders to limit the size of fare hikes, which could come next summer, to 5 percent at the most.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board has been tasked with closing a $240 million budget gap next fiscal year. As part of the process, it has discussed the possibility of increasing fares next summer.

Board members asked at a meeting last month whether a 2013 state law barring the T from increasing fares more often than every two years, and capping increases at 5 percent per year, meant the agency could increase prices 10 percent every two years. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said at the time that “it would appear to mean’’ so.

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In a public comment period at the start of Monday’s control board meeting, Rafael Mares, a vice president with the Conservation Law Foundation, said he supported “regular, small, and planned fare increases.’’ But he said relying on fare increases was “not a novel idea’’ to boost revenue.

“I want to warn you that it’s not a good idea to pursue a fare increase over 5 percent even if you have the power to do so,’’ he said.

Mares said a 10 percent increase could result in outcry from existing T riders and deter potential new riders.

Charlie Ticotsky, policy director for Transportation for Massachusetts, also asked the control board members to preserve a “framework of small increases every two years’’ in speaking against increases above 5 percent. In an email to Boston.com, Ticotsky said another section of the 2013 law suggests the legislature’s intent was for fares to increase by no more than 5 percent every 24 months.

Lee Matsueda, the political director for Roxbury-based Alternatives for Community & Environment, went a step further, arguing against any fare increases next year. Matsueda said ACE would organize T riders against price hikes in the coming weeks.

“Riders believe they are paying their fair share,’’ he said.

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Gov. Charlie Baker pushed earlier this year to suspend the fare price limits in the 2013 law as part of an MBTA reform plan, which also called for the creation of the control board. When the legislature created the control board over the summer, it did not abide by that aspect of the plan.

Baker said at the time that he would continue to push for other changes, but Pollack last month told reporters that the administration is acting under the assumption that fare increase rules will remain as they are.

Fare hikes were broached at an October meeting in which officials also spoke about possibly increasing MBTA parking prices. Baker, Pollack, and T officials have said a fare lift is just an idea, and that no decisions have been made to this point.

“I think we’re a long time away from this board being able to vote on fares,’’ Pollack said Monday, while reiterating that the T believes it can boost them by as much as 10 percent next year.

“It may be that the right thing for the T to do is to lower some fares and raise others depending upon traffic patterns and who’s riding them and all the rest,’’ Baker said last month.

MBTA fares last increased in 2014.

 

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