Another MBTA fare increase is starting to appear inevitable.
While admitting none of the options are ideal, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott says she favors raising fares in order to help bridge a $117 million shortfall, rather than significant reductions in bus service.
Scott told members of the MassDOT board that the state's poorest residents, who rely on public transportation the most, would be disproportionately affected by changes to the bus system.
"If we're talking one-time bridge, I will tell you in terms of final recommendation, there's going to be more leaning toward fare because of exactly that set of tensions that we have going on," Scott said.
Any fare hikes could be rolled back if the agency receives additional funding from the state.
Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed a transportation plan would add $166 million to the MBTA's operating budget for the 2014 fiscal year. However, the legislature needs to approve it — and that's not guaranteed.
One partial solution would be for the MBTA to use $45 million in federal funds earmarked for maintenance on operating expenses, and delay the repairs for a year.
"The cost is not doing all the states of good repair projects that benefit our customers, benefit the system and improve reliability," MBTA Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Davis said Tuesday.
Scott told the Boston Globe that she hopes drastic measures won't be needed.
"I'm praying it's a timing and figuring-it-out issue," Scott said.
MBTA fares went up an average of 23 percent last year. Analysts say an even larger increase might be needed.
A final fiscal 2014 budget plan will be submitted to the MassDOT board next week and must be approved by April 10.
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos