Protests where held outside the Transportation building yesterday as the MBTA board was set to vote on fare hikes and service cuts. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO Protests where held outside the Transportation building Wednesday as the MBTA board was set to vote on fare hikes and service cuts.
PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

 

The MBTA Board today unanimously approved its fiscal year 2014 budget, which assumes the state will close the transit agency’s $118 million operating deficit — although there is no guarantee the funding will come through.

 

Before the vote, more than a dozen T riders voiced dissatisfaction with the MBTA's fares and service.

 

"We understand the financial crisis you have faced and the structural deficit. We are disappointed in the legislature's short sightedness, and not seizing the opportunity to fill the problem, but instead to put another band aid," Carolyn Villers, executive director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, said at the meeting.

 

"With that said, let me be very clear - we hold you fully responsible and accountable for the extreme and disproportionate fare increases you have levied on those who depend on The Ride...You need to stop the human suffering caused by your policy decisions."

The T budget includes a $118 million “other state funding” line item, which transportation officials hope will be filled by the transportation financing legislation making its way through the legislature.

If the legislature and governor can’t reach an agreement, the T may be forced to close the hole by using funds meant for preventative maintenance, raising fares and cutting service.

The MBTA has done its job here,” said board member Janice Loux at yesterday's meeting. “Forward funding never worked. We need to fix this, and I plead with the legislature to please remember the working poor.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved an $81.9 million contract with Barletta Engineering Heavy Division for the reconstruction of Government Center to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The three-year construction project will close the downtown station for two years. Other Barletta T projects include overhauls of Charles MGH, Kenmore Square, Airport and Science Park.

Confronting an increase in assaults against bus drivers, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said the T is trying to come up with safety measures, which might include partitions to protect the drivers.

Scott also said there had been outreach to youth, and training to "assist in how to de-escalate situations."

Currently 370 buses out of about 1,000 have cameras, and it costs about $6,000 per bus to install cameras.

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