It's that time of year again - MassDOT is beginning to prepare the 2016-2017 MBTA budget. Until recently, this carried the threat of massive fare increases to deal with the T's ever-worsening fiscal crisis. In 2013, we won a provision in transportation legislation limiting fare hikes to no more than five percent every two years. By this measure, there would be a possible five percent increase in 2016.
However, some legislators, transit officials and Governor Baker's Fiscal and Management Control Board are now debating whether the law permits a 10 percent fare increase instead. As if this wasn't bad enough, some even want to raise prices on our paratransit system THE RIDE, bringing the cost of a one-way trip from $3 to $4.20, the highest fare allowable under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"As a T rider, I've experienced two fare hikes that have impacted my daily life," said Emmanuell de Barros, TRU intern, at a MassDOT board meeting in November. "Sometimes I would have to walk to school or work due to the cost, or because of inadequate service."
Unfortunately, service cuts - not improvements - are high on the Control Board's agenda. For example, bus trips used by some of the most vulnerable riders could be slashed, with the remainder being transferred to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft (with documented worker exploitation issues). This circumvents union jobs and moves us closer to privatization - even though corporations like Keolis have failed to provide better service at a lower cost to the state.
Despite the need to close the MBTA's $242 million budget gap and fund the more than $7.3 billion in backlogged repairs, Governor Baker is promoting the same "reform before revenue" fallacy that has precipitated the dire straights our transit system is in today. Our governor and legislators seem to prefer debating fare hikes in place of alloting the $261 million granted to the agency for the 2016-2017 fiscal year by the 2013 Transportation Investment Act.
"We need to be looking at real solutions instead of backtracking on the ones riders won in 2013 - and that includes capping fare hikes at five percent every two years and investing in the system," said Emmanuell.
Fare hikes and services cuts are not the answer to balancing the T's budget. No fare increase would be enough to cover the more than $9 billion in debt and bring the system into a state of good repair. We believe that a fare increase of any amount is too much when riders are already struggling to with the costs of getting to work, education, healthcare and other necessities. The T needs to be relieved of the Big Dig Debt and allocated a sustainable source of funding to provide the affordable, quality service that we need.
Join us to fight for real solutions for the T! Testify with TRU at MassDOT Fiscal and Management Control Board meetings on November 30 and December 9. We are expecting fare hike proposals to be unveiled by January 6, with a board vote in February. Learn more at our next TRU member meeting and sign up to join us for outreach! For more information, contact Caroline.