MBTA Plans Significant Fare Increases

UPDATED: February 8, 2012, at 11:45 p.m.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is considering serious fare changes and service cuts, including raising student fares by up to 83.3 percent for local buses and by 76.5 percent for T fare.

The MBTA, which includes Massachusetts rails, commuter rails, buses, and ferries, says that the changes are necessary, considering a projected deficit of $161 million for fiscal year 2013 and a total debt of $9 billion.

“This structural deficit will continue to grow through FY 2016 and beyond under current conditions,” the MBTA said in a report about the potential cuts on its website. “To maintain financial stability the T will have to make decisions in the next few months that will significantly impact fares and service.”

The website also explained that the MBTA will decide between two proposals. The first would increase fares overall by an average of 43 percent, and eliminate 34 to 49 million annual trips. The second proposal would only increase fares by an overall average of 35 percent, and eliminate 53 to 64 million annual trips. Both proposals will save the MBTA about $160 million.


But the MBTA’s financial woes do not stem from a lack of passengers. Earlier this month, the Boston Globe reported that MBTA use reached record usage in 2011, with over 379 million passenger trips reported.

Hundreds of those trips were made by members of the Harvard sailing team, which takes the T up to three times a week during season in order to get to practice, according to captain Isabel W. Ruane ’14.

Ruane expressed concern over the potential increase.

“The T fares are already frustratingly expensive, especially when we only travel two stops per fare,” Ruane said in an email, referring to the Sailing Team’s boathouse near the Kendell Square stop. “But I value the service, and therefore respect the fare.”

Ruane added that the hike in fare price might incentivize her to look for alternate forms of transportation.

“Higher fares would give me greater incentive to bike, meaning I’d probably take the T a little less,” she said.

The MBTA raised fares in 2007 and contemplated another raise in 2009. But the state legislature created a new source of revenue for the public rail—$160 million allocated from the sales tax. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged the state legislature to intervene again to prevent either of MBTA’s proposals from being enacted.

“I understand the difficult decisions facing the MBTA. Many administrations have simply passed the buck,” Menino wrote in a letter to Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Transportation Richard A. Davey, which was also sent to several Massachusetts and Boston officials, including Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78. “However, riders should not be forced to shoulder the entire weight of this debt.”

The MBTA will hold a public workshop to hear comments and concerns from Cambridge residents on Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Citywide Senior Center.

—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at