If the Legislature doesn't devise a long-term plan to help fund the MBTA, riders will be facing even more service cuts and fare increases this time next year, top state officials warned yesterday.
"This solution is all about patches and plugs," said Gov. Deval Patrick, referring to a new plan proposed by MassDOT officials to close the T's current $161 million deficit. "This is neither a permanent nor a comprehensive solution."
Officials from the transit agency announced a third scenario yesterday that would raise fares overall by 23 percent while cutting some services in order to close the gap.
While the new plan is not yet set in stone, it is likely to be implemented. The plan was created after officials spent months traveling around Greater Boston to hear concerns from thousands of commuters about other proposals that included higher fare hikes and even more service cuts.
The fix is nothing short of a one-time solution, said MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey.
"We can't pull any more rabbits out of the hat," said Davey. "Unless something else changes we will be here a year from now talking about cuts and fare increases. We will have to do it without one-time solves."
To close the current 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 -- none of which will be available in the next fiscal year.
"It is unacceptable that because of the Legislature's inaction, the MBTA will be forced to raise fares or cut more service again as early as next year," said Lizzi Weyant, staff attorney for MASSPIRG, a transportation advocacy group. "We need a meaningful, statewide investment in our transportation system so that we can improve and expand the MBTA."
Patrick agreed, saying when the Legislature convenes next year, the T will have to be at the top of their agenda.
"The Legislature will have to be receptive to something," said Patrick.
Safe, for now
In their original plans, T officials played with the possibility of ditching Commuter Rail trains after 10 p.m., and scrapping ferries and the weekend Green Line E train.
But after an "overwhelming message from customers," MassDOT Secretary Rich Davey said they were able to stave off those options.
"We have minimized the cuts to about $15 million," he said.
However, ferry riders will still face a 35 percent fare increase and other services are still on the chopping block.
Weekend service on the Greenbush, Plymouth/Kingston and Needham Commuter Rail lines will likely be eliminated.
What riders are saying
How do you feel about the fare increases?
Metro traveled to Park Street station and asked riders what they thought of the T’s latest suggestion to raise the cost of a ride.
“I’m definitely against it. I think public transportation is [needed] to have a functional society ... you would think it would be the city’s No. 1 concern. But it doesn’t surprise me that they are raising fares.” Michael Pollock, 28, Somerville
“I don’t like it at all. I use it every day to get to school, but now I probably won’t take the T as much. I’ll walk. [The fare increase] is too much.” Ralph Angrand, 19, Boston
“I saw this coming from a mile away. Actually, I’m surprised it’s not $3.50 to ride — it’s an old system. But, it’s just another bill [to pay]. I’ll definitely be taking my bike more though. I hope the city teaches people how to ride bikes in the street.” Yvette Gonzalez, 28, Brockton
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