Time is not right for large T fare hike

Any increase above 5% would show agency is tone-deaf

THE MBTA ASKED THE PUBLIC what it thinks of the agency’s proposal to raise overall transit fares by as much as 10 percent and the cost of some passes by as much as 23 percent. And the public has spoken:

  • More than 2,000 people took the time to comment on the proposed fare hike online. Only 4 percent said they supported the hike, with nearly three-quarters opposing.
  • A wide range of entities, some of whom agree on little else, have united in opposition, from the NAACP to the right-leaning Pioneer Institute, and including the Boston Public Schools. (The column originally included the MASCO employer group in the Longwood Medical Area, but the group asked CommonWealth to remove its name from the article.)
  • Nearly 500 people turned out to the MBTA’s public hearings, with 170 people, including local and state public officials, speaking against the fare hike.

There are many others whose voices were not heard, either because they weren’t able to make it to a hearing, they didn’t know about them (in our experience, no information was placed inside transit vehicles about the hearings, and the floor-level signs at transit stations did not include a hearing schedule, just a web address and number to call), or they did not feel confident that they would be able to communicate their concerns appropriately (at the Roxbury meeting, for example, a Spanish-speaking rider provided his own interpreter).

Those who did testify told powerful stories of how the fare hike will affect their communities. Representatives of the Boston Public Schools described how the 23 percent increase in student passes will drain more than $1 million from the school budget – enough to pay for 14 badly needed teachers. Residents of Roxbury and Chelsea told how the fare hike will make it even more difficult for them to make ends meet at a time when the cost of living is going through the roof. Young people told how rising fares and pass costs would impede their ability to get to school or to keep a summer job.

Vivian Ortiz

Vivian Ortiz

How has the MBTA reacted to the outpouring of public reaction? By claiming that the unified public opposition to the fare hike is “modest,” in the words of the T’s Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve. What does it say to those who did speak out to have their participation minimized in such a way? And if thousands of comments aren’t enough to convey the clear and overwhelming opposition of MBTA riders and Greater Boston residents to the hikes, what exactly would be?

MBTA riders and Greater Boston residents have been told many things about the proposed fare hike. They’ve been told that, even with higher fares, they will be getting a “great deal” compared with residents of other cities (at least if they buy a monthly pass, which most low-income residents don’t), at the same time they endure crowded, unreliable buses and trains.

Charlie Ticotsky

Charlie Ticotsky

They have been told that the fare hike will somehow deliver better and more reliable service, even though previous fare hikes – which have resulted in a doubling of fares since 2000 – have failed to slow the T’s steady, slow slide into disrepair.

They have been told that the added revenue from fare hikes will go toward capital improvements, even as state officials continue to claim that the T is unable to realistically spend any more capital funds than have already been made available.

Riders and residents have been told that raising fares is a “last resort,” even though simply continuing previous levels of state support, which Gov. Charlie Baker already has included in his budget proposal – coupled with the money the T has already saved through cost-cutting measures – would provide enough revenue to close the budget gap for next year with only the 5 percent biannual fare increase envisioned by lawmakers in the 2013 transportation reform bill.  And, just this week, the T announced it will come in $75 million under this year’s budget, which, again, negates the need for fare hikes.

Meet the Author
Meet the Author

Charlie Ticotsky

Policy director, Transportation for Massachusetts
Over the last month, the public has told the MBTA – loud and clear – that the time is not right for a large fare hike. Approving a fare hike in excess of 5 percent, especially given the recent high-profile failures of the transit system, would be a tone deaf response to riders’ very real concerns about the T. It would also show that, for all the talk in this new era of making the new MBTA responsive to consumers, the agency still has the capacity to hear only what it wants to hear.

Vivian Ortiz is a resident of Mattapan and Charlie Ticotsky is the policy director at Transportation for Massachusetts.

  • If there is a fare hike, we should actually benefit from it.

  • Sisu54

    Interesting article. The head of the fiscal control board at the T Joe Aeillo cut his teeth working at the T managing the Silver Line before he jumped to DMJM/Aecom in 1993. He also was heavily involved in Dukakas failed run for the presidency and often joked about having to go to Iowa and the Dakotas and clean the sh@t out of his wing tips with a tooth pick.

    DMJM won the N/S Rail Link contract in 94 when Aeillo cut a deal with David Nelson chief T planner to put his wife’s firm KKO Associates on the JV with VHB. Nelson was head of the selection committee to pick the winning engineering team.

    He hired Dukakis and Freddie Salvucci to lobby Puerto Rico to hire DMJM to run Tren Urbano. ACI owned by ex T GM is the contract operator at Tren Urbano. As T hacks would retire they would go work for Aeillo in Puerto Rico for him. Kinda like the Underground Railroad in reverse. He was their ticket to freedom as long as they kept having their buddies award contracts at the T to DMJM, FR Harris, CTE and Aecom all of which have now merged into AECOM. Aeillo works for Meridiam which was started by a JV of Aecom and French firms. Ex. MHD commissioner Jane Garvey is head of Meridiam in the US and Aeillo works for her.

    DMJM won that job which is singlehanded the worst lessons learned by the government what not to do with transit system management. Puerto Rico is now on the verge of bankruptcy.

    Aeillo went on to hire Bob Prince when he retired from the T and hence DMJM got huge engineering contracts from the T after Prince left. Prince worked in Puerto Rico at Tren Urbano to skirt the week conflict of interest provisions.

    In most places the state government would investigate this type of behavior that looks to an independent like Rico violations but in Massachusetts they celebrate it, encourage it and allow it.

    Until you clean out the back room dealing you will never get the story as a rider and taxpayer and get used to just paying more and more for less and less!