Stagger the fare increase on T passes

Two-stage hike would ease impact on riders, businesses

ON MONDAY, MARCH 7, the MBTA Fiscal Management & Control Board (FMCB) is scheduled to vote on a specific fare increase plan that would take effect this July.  The MBTA recently completed the public comment period on two specific fare increase proposals, one with a systemwide increase of 6.7 percent and the other with 9.7 percent.  However, they have reserved their right to make some revisions and create a hybrid option.

Last week, A Better City – a membership organization with over 130 major businesses and institutions in Greater Boston – offered our concerns and recommendations to the MBTA and MassDOT. ABC is already on record for supporting a capped, two-year interval schedule for fare increases to keep pace with increased costs.  As they finalize their review, we have identified a number of recommendations for the FMCB to consider and adopt:

  • Fare increases should be discussed in tandem with targeted service improvements, which are specifically identified as a result of the increased payment for service. This would help rebuild trust and confidence in the transit system.
  • We requested that the MBTA consider staggering the implementation date for monthly passes, so that half the increase would start on July 1, 2016, and the remaining portion would take effect on January 1, 2017. This will allow both riders and businesses (who often subsidize fare passes for their employees) the opportunity to better plan and budget for these changes.
  • We asked that the FMCB consider specific revisions to the proposals that would limit the fare adjustments to both student passes and bus fares, due to equity concerns and the need to keep the system affordable for transit dependent and low-income riders.
  • Additional steps should be taken to mitigate the impact of the possible 1.6 percent overall ridership loss. New market strategies should be put in place to minimize impacts.
  • Enhanced strategies to address fare evasion should also go hand in hand with proposed fare increases.
Meet the Author
ABC looks forward to working with the MBTA in advancing new fare technologies that can help provide more price sensitivity, ease payment, reduce fare evasion, and further address fare equity issues.

These fare increases are only a small part of the MBTA’s larger financial challenge.  We are encouraged by the FMCB’s work over the past few months, with its implementation of operational and management reforms.  However, the outstanding state of good repair, the need for transit capacity improvements, and targeted expansion still must be addressed so that our improving economy is not choked.  These are substantial challenges that cannot be solved by fares alone.

Richard A Dimino is president and CEO of A Better City, a nonprofit organization that advocates on transportation, land development, and public realm infrastructure in Greater Boston.