March 29, 2012
> > VIDEO: Transportation secretary Richard Davey appears on Greater Boston after the announcement.
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick said he supports the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's final proposal to bridge a $185 million budget gap but warned that much work is to come.
“The T we inherited had a fatally flawed budget. It is burdened with Big Dig debt and pushing payments off into the future," Patrick said. "I don’t favor short-term patches. I prefer long-term solutions and long-term problem-solving. That’s going to be at the top of our agenda next year when the Legislature gets back.”
Announcing the plan on Wednesday, transportation secretary Richard Davey made it very clear that this latest fix is fleeting.
“This is a one-year solve for us. Next year’s budget deficit is $100 million for sure,” said Davey at a press conference this afternoon. “Unless something else changes, we’ll be back here in a year from now talking about more cuts in service.”
The plan relies heavily on one-time handouts from other state funds, including $51 million from the Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund, $5 million from the snow and ice surplus and $5 million from the North Station Garage lease payment. Those provisions would have to be approved by the Legislature. The plan also calls for an average 23 percent hike in fares. A ride on the T with a Charlie Card could soon cost $2, up from $1.70. And a bus ride could jump a quarter to $1.50 a ride.
“I understand that these changes are moderate, but depending on who you are as a customer could be severe. And for that, we have worked very hard in ensuring that as few customers as possible, particularly with the service cuts, were impacted,” said Davey.
The changes in detail
The final proposal is significantly scaled back from the original two plans put forth in January, which called for fare hikes up to 43 percent, the elimination of more than 100 bus routes, the complete elimination of the ferry service and cuts to the commuter rail. Instead, the proposal cuts four bus routes: the 48 in Jamaica Plain, the 355 in Woburn, the 500 express bus to Newton and the 710, a private carrier route. In addition, 14 other routes will have a revised schedule.
The ferry service will remain intact but could see a 33 percent increase in fares and weekend service to Quincy will be cut. As for the commuter rail, all weekday train service will be preserved, but weekend service on the Greenbush, Needham and Kingston/Plymouth lines will be eliminated. The Ride, which the MBTA said has seen a 400 percent increase in the past decade, would be changed to $4 a trip. But the MBTA would continue to serve customers outside the ADA-required service area.
The process of coming up with this plan sparked public outrage. The MBTA said more than 6,000 riders aired their grievances at over 30 public meetings and hearings. Acting MBTA general manager Jonathan Davis said the outcry didn’t go unheeded.
“I can assure our customers that we did listen and we incorporated a number of their thoughts and suggestions into this recommendation,” said Davis. “They challenged us to take a look at other savings.”
The response from riders
Still, some T riders said any fare increase, even a 30 cent one, is too much.
“I just got laid off from my job and I can’t afford any fare increase,” said Matthew Bander of Brighton.
Sharrieff Johnson of Roslindale said he can’t afford one either: “We have a child and paying for our child and getting to work and getting to school — it’s going to be much harder to do that.”
Still, other MBTA patrons said they didn't mind paying more now, instead of kicking the can further down the road.
“Well, they’ve got to do something,” said Brian Rattigan of Needham. “They can’t go on with big deficits. I mean, add a quarter of a cent to the gas tax and be done with it.”
“When you ride the T, you see there’s a lot of things that have to be done,” said Arthur Anastasi of Quincy. “There’s a lot of infrastructure that’s falling apart. I know people aren’t going to like what I have to say, but I think it has to go up.”
Nothing is set in stone yet. The cuts and fare hike proposals will be presented to the board on April 4. The board then has until April 15 to make a decision. If the proposal is passed, the changes would be effective starting July 1, 2012.
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