T oversight chief favors fare hike

Light turnout so far at public hearings

THE CHAIRMAN OF THE MBTA’S OVERSIGHT BOARD said on Wednesday that he believes the underlying arguments for a fare increase remain valid. He made his comment after hearing a top agency official say the two fare hike proposals the T is considering are attracting a light turnout so far at public hearings.

Brian Shortsleeve, the T’s chief administrator, told the agency’s oversight board that the 12 public meetings on the proposed fare increases and commuter rail schedules, to date, have drawn a median attendance of 20 people per meeting. The highest attendance was 150 people at a meeting in Boston and the low was 10 in Newton, he said.

Shortsleeve said 5,400 people have used the T’s website to calculate what impact the proposed fare hikes would be on them, and 1,800 of those people went on to post public comments on the website.

Two more hearings on the fare hikes will be held in Roxbury and Weymouth before the public comment period ends Friday. A vote on whether to increase fares and by how much is currently scheduled for March 7.

Shortsleeve promised a more extensive report on the feedback from the public hearings at a future meeting, but indicated nearly all of the comments so far at the hearings and posted online were opposed to the fare hikes. He said the T is hearing concerns about service quality, employee compensation, budget management, affordability and equity, fare evasion, and student pricing.

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Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, indicated he is comfortable with hiking fares. “The underlying reasons for the fare increase remain valid in my mind,” he said.

The T oversight board is taking comment on two fare proposals, but has said it may not increase fares at all or blend the two proposals in some fashion. The proposals would boost base fares by either 5 percent or 10 percent, while hiking the price of many popular T passes by greater amounts.  For example, the popular LinkPass, which offers unlimited bus and subway travel, would go from $75 a month to either $82.50 (an increase of 10 percent) or $84.50 (a 12.7 percent increase).

  • What are the reasons for increasing the fare in the Director’s mind? I’ve heard that the fare hikes are not needed to close the deficit due to state assistance and increased operating efficiency.

  • Linda M. Balzotti

    Turnout at the meetings is low because all riders know it is useless. They are going to do what they want and what we think does not matter a hill of beans. We all have more important things to do with our free time than participate in their phony dog and pony show.

  • Perr5

    MBTA service benefits many more people and institutions than just the people who are actually riding. All those who benefit should pay, not just the riders. Not that I have any specific proposals on how to spread the cost around more fairly, but I bet some smart person can come up with something.