BREAKING: MBTA board votes in favor of fare increases - Metro US

BREAKING: MBTA board votes in favor of fare increases

People will pay more to ride the MBTA starting in July.

After more than an hour of pleas, chants and demands from riders that the MBTA Board of Directors vote down a proposal to raise T fares by 23 percent, officials passed the measure, causing an uproar in a packed hearing room at the State Transportation building.

In a 4-1 vote, it was not unanimousl.

“I cannot in good conscious support a budget that covers the gap and burdens the most vulnerable in our population. It’s time for the legislature to come to the table,” said board member Ferdinand Alvaro, Jr., the lone dissenting vote.

Committee member Janice Loux said she was voting in favor of the fare increases and cuts, but with “a heavy heart.”

“Low-wage workers struggle and already live paycheck to paycheck and will suffer unless the Legislature acts here,” she said.

Loux’s speech was interrupted with boos from the crowd as they began to chant “shame on you.”

Other members were worried if they voted in favor of the measure, the Legislature wouldn’t act to help bail out the T next year, since the current solutions are a one-time fix to a larger budget issue.

“I don’t think any of us are happy with this,” said board member Andrew Whittle. “We have been told that if we act, the Legislature will act. We should hold them to that.”

Whittle voted in favor of the proposal to raise fares.

The board’s vote didn’t come without an uproar and disapproval from more than 150 riders who flooded the Transportation Building meeting hall.

Due to the amount of people signed up to speak out against the fare increases and service cuts, and the limited amount of time, only about 70 percent were heard.

Long before the meeting started, dozens of State Police officers, MBTA Transit Police and building security guards mobbed the lobby in an effort to keep order.

The usual three entrances to the building were confined to one entrance, on Charles Street, with ropes to corral the line of riders waiting to get a word in.

Riders spoke up one last time, demanding the board vote ‘no’ on the new proposal.

From elderly riders to students who rely on the T, hundreds poured out their hearts urging officials to rethink what they called “unfair proposals.”

“I want to make clear, you have a moral requirement…Your requirement is to vote no. You have to vote no,” said David Jenkins, a member of the T Riders Union. “You’re going to choke the lifeline of students, youth, seniors, low income communities…and you have a moral obligation to demand that legislature and governor does their work now.”

Riders wanted the board to scrap MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey’s conditions and formulate an alternative plan that wouldn’t rely on fare spikes, to no avail.

While a major hurdle was passed Wednesday to close the T’s budget gap, service reductions and fare increases aren’t enough.

To close the rest of the deficit, T officials are relying on more than $60 million from the state’s motor vehicle inspection trust fund, snow and ice surplus and leasing the North Station Garage.

Gov. Deval Patrick filed legislation last week to use those surplus funds to close the T’s fiscal 2013 budget.

The reform needs approval from the state’s Joint Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposed legislation next Monday at 10 a.m.

“When combined with the proposed fare increase plan, the MBTA will preserve services vital to our customers and to a strong and growing Commonwealth economy,” Patrick said last week.

If the legislature does not approve the reform, T officials will be forced to go back to the drawing board to find additional ways to close the gap.

Hundreds lined up for the public hearing but only 150 people were let into packed session on Wednesday.

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