Mar. 13, 2012
BOSTON — As the debate continues over proposed fare hikes and service cuts for Boston-area mass transit, advocates called Monday for a long-term solution to Massachusetts' transportation funding problems.
Over the past two months, commuters have packed public hearings to rail against potential fare hikes and service cuts. Faced with a budget gap of $160 million next year, the MBTA has proposed raising fares by as much as 40 percent and cutting weekend and nighttime service on the commuter rail.
Critics of the plan say the cuts would disproportionately hit students, the poor and the elderly who cannot afford cars or who rely on the T to get around. They also say it would force tens of thousands more cars onto the roads, creating traffic congestion all over the state.
But lawmakers from outside the MBTA's service's territory have resisted spending general funds to shore it up. State Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) said the T nonetheless needs a short-term influx of funding.
“There are some things that the Department of Transportation can do and the T can do this year," she said. "They’re about to start clamping down on people who ride for free. And we believe the transportation department can shift the operation of the Silver Line and the ferry, at least some of that cost, to Massport.”
Transportation advocate Kristina Egan said the Legislature should see the T’s proposals and the public outcry as a wakeup call: “This is the first step in trying to reduce the system rather than expand the system. It represents permanent downsizing of our public transportation system and also prices people off of the system."
Egan said that T is seriously underfunded and called on lawmakers to produce a long-term funding solution by the start of the next legislative session in 2013.
In the meantime, the MBTA and MassDOT board is expected to make a decision on the immediate service cuts and fare hikes by Apr. 15.