Monday, the MBTA approved a policy that would allow a 10% increase in fare price every two years, part of what the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) is calling “tough but necessary” decisions in order to cover the fiscal gap between rising operating costs and “basically flat” ridership.
Many T passengers expressed their disapproval of these fare hikes, with some saying that they may be more willing to pay higher prices if the system were more efficient, complaining of trains being too late or too early. Others worried about being unable to afford higher fares. Cracking down on the prevalence of free-riding, especially rampant on the Green Line, was pointed to as a way that the MBTA could raise revenue without raising prices.
These debates over raising fares in 2016 coincided with the release of MBTA employee salaries, which showed that in 2015, 24% of T workers earned more than $100,000. Twenty-seven workers have taken in enough overtime to double or even triple their annual pay to more than $200,000, angering some Boston travelers who believe that six-figure salaries for transit workers are excessive, though some were careful to say that they did not know the work involved for employees.
Other proposed measures to cover the $242 million budget gap have included allowing alcohol advertising, freezing non-union workers’ wages, eliminating unfilled jobs and, in a decision bound to affect Boston’s college students, cutting late-night service.
The MBTA has predicted it could save between $10 million and $14.8 million by ending late-night service, with none of the five members of the FMCB saying they think the service should continue.
Late-night service, which keeps subways running until 2 a.m. instead of the usual 12:30 a.m., began in the spring of 2014 and provides approximately 13,000 trips per weekend night, mostly for entertainment or social reasons.
Brian Shortsleeve, MBTA Chief Administrator, has said that Uber and Lyft, as well as other private transit companies, have expressed interest in partnering with the T to provide a substitute for late-night service.
Another controversial potential cut would affect passengers with disabilities. The Ride, which currently offers door-to-door service for disabled riders beyond federally-mandated geographic areas, is in danger of being discontinued. Protestors attended Monday’s meeting in an attempt to urge the board not to cut the service.
FMCB member Lisa Calise said that talks of terminating Ride were “premature,” hoping that the MBTA would be able to get more Ride users onto subways and buses to lower costs before they seriously considered cutting the program.
The FMCB, which was created this past summer, submitted a report this week that summarizes the “difficult” options considered and the less controversial options (such as cutting planned spending increases deemed unnecessary and maximizing revenue related to real estate). It urges caution in the plans to expand the Green Line, especially in light of the T’s growing repair needs.
Said the report, “The ongoing pattern of early low estimates that balloon later in the process serves to distort the planning process, damages the MBTA’s credibility with the public, and reduces needed spending on maintenance.”