Walsh backs MBTA fare hike

Boston's mayor says the T needs the money

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITH A VOTE ON FARE HIKES expected Monday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday gave general support to the idea of charging riders more for MBTA service.

“Fare hikes are never positive. They’re never popular, but the MBTA needs money. And that’s the bottom line,” Walsh told reporters before heading into an event in Charlestown.

With two proposals on the table before them that would hike fares an average of 6.7 percent or 9.7 percent, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board plans to vote on fare changes Monday.

There are 176 cities and towns in the MBTA service district, which has its base of subway and major bus lines in Boston.

Walsh said there are limited options for raising revenue at the MBTA – where management has also focused on cost controls and boosted non-fare revenue.

“There’s really two ways of revenue: One is by raising taxes; the other one’s by raising fares,” Walsh said.

The MBTA Control Board is unlikely to keep fares flat, though it could protect some of those more vulnerable to rising costs, such as students and seniors, according to MBTA Advisory Board Executive Director Paul Regan.

Transit advocates have argued a law passed in 2013 was intended to limit fare hikes to no more than 5 percent every two years, though the Baker administration and a key House lawmaker say the cap is 10 percent every two years.

“The prospect of no fare increase, I think, is off the table. The question is will they do just 5 percent or will they do more,” Regan told the News Service last week. He said, “I don’t get a lot of complaints that the fares are too high. What I do hear – almost constantly – is that the service is unreliable.”

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Andy Metzger

Law student, Temple University

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger is currently studying law at Temple University in Philadelphia. Previously, he joined  CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger is currently studying law at Temple University in Philadelphia. Previously, he joined  CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Regan, whose organization represents the municipalities served by the T, anticipated the control board might limit the impact on certain populations whose fare dollars don’t account for a significant share of the T’s roughly $2 billion budget.

“I think that this board might be open to holding certain populations harmless just because it doesn’t have the kind of revenue impact that is going to make a huge difference next year,” Regan said. “They need every dime, but they can be flexible.”