Unanimous disapproval at MBTA fare hike meeting

There was unanimous disapproval from community members and elected officials to the MBTA proposal to raise fares during a Feb. 10 meeting.

Dozens of attendees shared their concerns about the potential fare increase. Nobody at the meeting supported any fare raise. About 50 people attended the meeting at the Roxbury Community College

In efforts to close its $242 million deficit, the MBTA is proposing fare hikes and other measures to cut costs and improve efficiency. The MBTA has held a series of public meetings to hear comments and suggestions from the community about those changes.

The two proposed options, which would begin on July 1, would implement either a 6.71 percent average increase in fares or a 9.77 percent increase in fares. Some changes may also be implemented to the Commuter Rail schedule.

To calculate fares under the proposed changes, visit goo.gl/IBezHv.

“The challenge is of imagination, of what it’s like for people to be poor,” said local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz.

She told a story about a Boston Public Schools (BPS) student who didn’t have enough money for lunch to illustrate the reality of poverty in Boston. “

“Poverty is a daily reality,” she said. “The paradigm trap is that public transit is for the riders only—it’s not, it’s for everyone.”

City Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents part of Egleston Square, said that the fare hikes would hurt students.

“Boston Public Schools are the undisputed champion as your best customer,” he said. He said that the disproportionate raise in student fares was unfair to the students of the city.

“This increase is a complete slap in the face,” he said. “You have given us a choice between horrendous and horrible,”

The T Rider’s Union also contributed to the debate by reenacting a skit about the issue called Fight Night. The skit involved a villain representing fare hikes fighting in a boxing match against protagonists representing advertising revenue, ride improvements, smart savings, and funding from legislature. The fare hikes character lost the battle in the skit, representing the view that the revenue that the MBTA needs to tackle its debt could come from other sources.

The T Rider’s Union also distributed a petition against the fare hikes, which can be found at ourmbta.com.

Residents made many arguments about the current lack of quality transportation service. Some people said that it was unreliable and not well maintained.

“I’m very frustrated that [the MBTA] is unwilling to ask legislators to raise taxes. This is an inefficient policy,” said Gabe Dutler of Somerville. “If we are going to pay more for the T, we need to get better, not worse service.”

“I think we should tax the rich to pay for public transit,” said Northeastern University student Elan Axelbank.

“The problem here is that the decision makers don’t ride the buses,” said Jeremy Mendleson. “Recently, our transit has been slower, traffic has increased, and ambulance response time has gone up.”

Public comment period ended on Feb. 12. The MBTA fiscal and management control board is expected to vote on the hikes on March 7.

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