MBTA budget would raise fares without state aid

Fares on the MBTA are likely to rise if the transit agency doesn't receive a state bailout. (Amanda Art/Metro)
Fares on the MBTA are likely to rise if the transit agency doesn’t receive a state bailout. Credit: Amanda Art/Metro

MBTA fares will go up an average of 19 percent unless the transit agency receives sizable state funding, under a budget plan recommended Thursday.

The state transportation board’s Audit and Finance Committee voted 2-1 to support a $1.86 billion budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The entire board will vote on the budget in early April.

The MBTA faces a $139 million budget gap for the next fiscal year.

“We cannot afford what we have,” MBTA general manager Beverly Scott said. “It is a structural problem. The time is now. It must have a structural fix.”

Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed a tax reform plan to raise $1.9 billion per year, to be spent on transportation and education. The bill is before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is expected to release a budget plan by April 10.

Transportation officials were optimistic that the legislature will approve the governor’s plan, which would provide an additional $118 million to the MBTA.

Without that money, fare increases would likely take effect in December. The 10 least productive bus routes would also be cut.

Subway fares could jump from $2 to $2.30 or $2.45. Bus rides would cost $1.75 to $1.85, up from $1.50. The Ride, which serves elderly and disabled passengers, would remain $4.

Just last year, the MBTA raised fares an average of 23 percent.

Scott warned that the 2015 fiscal year could be worse, unless dramatic funding changes are made.

“It’s going to have to be a legitimate resizing effort,” Scott told the State House News Service. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you what combination would be fares, what combination would wind up being service reductions. That will be the most intense dialogue.”

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