I’ve been receiving a number of emails that read as follows:
You cannot allow the drastic service cuts and injurious fare hikes for
the MBTA. Fare hikes will reduce ridership and increase traffic and
pollution. Service cuts would be devastating to the people who depend
on public transportation to get around.
Please act immediately, before the MBTA’s board meeting, to fund the
MBTA to prevent these cuts and fare hikes.
I’m replying to them individually with the following message.
I appreciate hearing from you and I hope you know that I have been very concerned about these issues.
I also hope you’ve been following the issue on my website. See generally this link: http://willbrownsberger.com/?s=mbta&submit.x=0&submit.y=0
At this stage, the MBTA has moved a lot. While I am opposed to all service cuts through the budget process, I think your email goes too far in referring to the latest proposal as involving “drastic” cuts. The current proposal only affects 0.3% of the passenger trips in the system (3 trips out of 1000). I’m not happy about that, but it is a long way from where we started.
I also feel that the fare hikes — an average 23% which bring our fares closer in line with fares in other cities — will not be injurious for most people. Even for a daily user paying full fare, the effect will be under $15 per month. Entirely preventing fare increases that many people can afford will deny the MBTA necessary revenue. There are certainly people for whom that will be painful, but I think we need to find other ways to help them. I am eager to try to be helpful to any of my constituents who are in economic distress.
Some have suggested that the state could somehow easily prevent all fare increases or service cuts. I don’t believe that to be true. If the state were to step in, the funds would come out of some other important program. The state is, in fact, approving $51 million additional funding for the T out of a reserve for motor vehicle inspections as part of the recommended settlement. Please see this post on my website for more on this dialog: http://willbrownsberger.com/index.php/archives/10184.
At this stage, I feel that we should shift our concern and focus on the long term challenges of providing stable funding for the MBTA so we aren’t back here again next year. We should also be very concerned to improve maintenance and reliability on the MBTA and that requires more money — that is the real challenge now, not the outright prevention of fare increases.
I do remain concerned about the impact of RIDE fare increases on persons with severe disabilities, and will be listening on that issue.