By Michael Sol Warren
BU News Service
UPDATE 6:36 p.m.: MBTA final fare changes table added
Talking over angry chants, boos and megaphone-amplified shouts, the MBTA voted to increase fares.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal Management & Control Board approved a fare increase today. The fare increase will take effect on July 1. It will last two and a half years, meaning another fare increase will take effect on January 1, 2019.
The fare increase that was passed is a modification of FY17 Fare Proposal Option 2. According to Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, fares will increase by a systemwide average of about 9.3 percent and will generate about $42 million in new revenue for the MBTA.
The fare increase passed by the MBTA was a new proposal created following an extensive public comment period from January 4 to February 12. Additional modifications to this new proposal were added during the meeting. Because of the changes made today, the passage and adoption of the new fare is approved pending an equity analysis by the MBTA.
A major amendment made to the fare increase during the board’s discussion was the creation of a “lockbox” for the new revenue to go into. This system is designed to ensure that all money collected as a result of the fare increase, as well as an additional $25 million generated from operations budget savings, will be dedicated to MBTA service improvements in the short and medium term. Funds from this “lockbox” will require two-thirds approval of the board to be used.
“Today [the board] in effect created a $67 million service improvement fund for the riders,” Pollack said. “That represents this board’s commitment to ensure that operations budget savings in general and fare increase revenues specifically will only be used to ensure service improvements for MBTA riders.”
The other major change passed today, Pollack said, was the amendment of the student pass program. Student LinkPasses will now cost $30; however school districts such as Boston Public Schools that buy these passes in bulk for students will get a discounted cost of $29. In addition, students that are given a student CharlieCard will get a student discount monthly rate of $30. This rate will be in effect twelve months a year rather than the current ten months.
Other changes include the reduction of bus cash fares from $2.10 to $2.00 and monthly bus passes will now cost $55. The monthly senior LinkPass, currently $29, will increase to $30. Costs of The Ride, the MBTA’s program for disabled riders, will increase by five percent.
“In this series of votes, the board effectively reduced the fares that impact our most vulnerable riders,” Pollack said.
The meeting began with a public comment section dominated by opinions opposed to a fare increase. Speakers representing a variety of groups, including the T Riders Union, the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, the Black Economic Justice Institute and the Massachusetts Public Health Association, all took the opportunity to speak out against the fare increase.
Tensions in the meeting erupted around 3 p.m. when the a member of the T Riders Union turned on a megaphone and shouted, “This is a people’s takeover.” A group of about 20 protesters then began chanting, effectively disrupting the meetings. The MBTA Fiscal Management & Control Board Chairman Joseph Aiello immediately called the meeting to recess.
The demonstration continued as the board exited the room. No attempt was made to remove the protesters. At 3:14 p.m., the board re-entered the room and picked up discussion where they had left off. The board made amendments to the fare increase proposal as protesters chanted “This board is corrupt.”
— Michael Sol Warren (@MSolDub) March 7, 2016
At one point, board member Brian Lang joined in on a chant, saying “cut back” into a microphone.
“Is this amusing to you?” one protester called out to Lang in response.
“If you would’ve listened, we just made more cutbacks,” Lang answered.
At 3:30 p.m., the board voted to pass the fare increase. The board then exited the room, moving to a private room for the closed executive meeting. Shortly after, the protesters left the building, chanting, “We’ll be back” on the way out.
“The control board felt that it was more in keeping with the open meeting law to continue the meeting despite the disruption than it was have been to physically remove those folks from the room,” Pollack said. “The control board felt that they had their first amendment right to make that noise. I personally believe it was really unfortunate that it was difficult for the other people in that room to hear what the board was deliberating.”
Also in the public comment section of the meeting, Uber Boston General Manager Chris Taylor announced his companies plan to ease the cancellation of late night T service. Taylor announced that starting on March 19, Uber will offer a $5 flat rate for Uber Pool rides that pick up at T stops every Saturday from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. This offer will run until April 9.
Here is the complete set of fare changes passed at today’s meeting.[embeddoc url=”http://bunewsservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/FINAL-FARE-CHANGES.pdf”]
Read the full collection of public comments regarding the fare increase proposal collected by the MBTA from January 4 to February 12 here.[embeddoc url=”http://bunewsservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016-Fares-Public-Comment-Data_v4-BU.xlsx” viewer=”microsoft”]