Host of proposed transportation bills to be heard on Beacon Hill

While T officials have said The Ride is one of the biggest drains on funding, some politicians want to examine expanding the system.

Free ridership for military personnel, getting refunds for late Commuter Rail trains and extending the MBTA’s The Ride services are just a few of the proposed bills going before state officials on Beacon Hill today.

But with the T strapped for cash, transportation leaders said some of the filed legislation is unaffordable, as the MBTA tries to hack away at a $161 million deficit.

“I hope the hearing raises the awareness that folks want more service, but the T can’t afford what it runs today,” said MassDOT Secretary Rich Davey.

Davey said the desire to expand services is indicative of what transportation officials have been hearing from customers at recent public events regarding fare increases and service cutbacks.
“People want more service not less, and if we had money to offer new services we would in a heart beat,” said Davey.

One proposal scheduled to go before the Joint Committee on Transportation today at the State House would bring back late night services for T riders by reinstating the “Night Owl” program.

Backed by state Rep. Sean Garballey and former Sen. Steven Tolman, the bill suggests running major subway and bus routes Thursday through Sunday until 2:30 a.m.

But Davey said the chance of that “is zero,” and a top financial adviser for the T agreed.

“There is no way they are going to cut bus services commuters use every day and add late night service,” said Brian Kane, a budget analyst for the MBTA Advisory Board. “It’s just too expensive.”

The T piloted “Night Owl” in 2001, but axed it four years later due to budget cuts and low ridership.
Workers also conduct crucial maintenance on the tracks and trains between 1 and 5 a.m.

However, Davey didn’t wipe out the idea completely. “I know it’s something in the future if [the financial situation] improved we’d be interested in implementing,” he said.

Refunds for commuters?

What if you didn’t have to pay to ride the Commuter Rail because it was too hot or cold?

A bill going to Beacon Hill wants passengers sitting in any train car on the Commuter Rail that “fails to provide reasonable temperature regulation” to ride for free.

It would also “ensure fair treatment of Commuter Rail passengers” by not charging passengers for train rides that are 20 minutes late.

Commuter Rail officials would not comment on proposed legislation.

Future of MBTA?up for debate

A host of proposed bills will go before the Transportation Committee on Beacon Hill today, including:
   
Legislation to exempt certain seniors from paying to ride the MBTA
   
Eliminating fares for certain members of the armed forces and their dependents
   
Renaming the Copley and Science Park stations
   
To put fire extinguishers and safety kits on trains
   
To put a Commuter Rail stop in Allston-Brighton.
   
Extending The Ride services to other cities and towns.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear


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