City Council Tackles Fare Hikes

City Council members debated how to best address the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s most recent budget deficit at a Cambridge City Council meeting Monday evening. The MBTA has put forward two proposals, both of which include major cuts to MBTA service and sizable fare increases.

The changes, which will increase fares by more than 40 percent, have upset many people in the Boston area.

Councillor E. Denise Simmons said that she opposes the changes to current MBTA service and fares.

“I’m certainly going to continue to keep up my resistance,” said Simmons.

The proposed changes will also cut service on weekends to the college-heavy area along the Green Line’s E line, among other service cuts.

Last week, two high school students came to the City Council meeting to protest a nearly 100 percent increase to weekly student pass fares. Monday, members of the community spoke at the City Council meeting against the proposed fare hikes and service cuts.

Councillor Timothy J. Toomey Jr., who is also a state legislator, said he disagrees with the MBTA’s proposals and that he is concerned that the fare increases will inappropriately target students and senior citizens.

“The irony of this is the MBTA ridership is at its highest [point] in a long time, so we should be encouraging people to take mass transit instead of their automobiles,” Toomey said. “It’s kind of foolish of us to not be putting more money into mass transit.”

After discussing the potential changes to service and fares, the Council decided to arrange for a meeting with the MBTA.

The discussion at the City Council meeting coincided with a rally in Copley Square, which was spearheaded by student groups and Occupy movements from across the Boston area. The rally was followed by a public meeting, hosted by the MBTA, at which citizens could discuss the proposed changes.

“It was very lively today. There were about 200 people in Copley Square in front of the Boston Public Library,” said Jackson F. Cashion ’13, an inactive Crimson editor, who attended the rally. “It brought together many communities in Boston that don’t normally work together.”

Noah D. McKenna, a molecular biologist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, who is a member of Occupy Boston and Occupy the MBTA, said that “no hikes, no cuts” was the rally’s primary message.

McKenna acknowledged that the MBTA is strapped for money, but said he thought that more of the deficit should be filled by funding from the state legislature rather than from MBTA customers.

“The MBTA obviously has their hands tied to some degree,” said McKenna. “We’re using these hearings as rally points, and in the coming months we’ll be shifting these rallies to the State House.”

As they have during every council meeting this year, the councillors again voted, to no avail, for the next mayor. The mayoral position, which is primarily ceremonial, comes with a significant pay increase and a spot on the School Committee. To be elected mayor, a City Councillor needs a majority of the nine members’ votes. As of yet, no one has managed to obtain more than three votes.

Voting changed only slightly from the meeting before, as Councillors Kenneth E. Reeves ‘72 and Craig A. Kelley both voted for Kelley on Monday. Two weeks ago, both voted for Reeves, and last week, Reeves voted for himself, while Kelley was absent. All other votes remained constant.

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, who received votes from herself and Councillor David P. Maher, said that failing to elect a mayor was a disservice to the city. “Something has to be done to elect a mayor—it’s about doing the business of the people.”

Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at mayajonas-silver@college.harvard.edu.

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