Menino, conservationists decry combination of fare increases and service cuts

The Globe reports the mayor wants the legislature to raise the gas tax or find some other way to help out the debt-ridden MBTA, rather than letting its riders founder.

The Conservation Law Foundation, meanwhile, is decrying the state's current position that riders can choose steep fare hikes or massive service cuts:

The MBTA has created a false choice between draconian service cuts and drastic fare increases. The reality is it's a lose-lose situation for transit users and Massachusetts. If Secretary Davey is hearing a chorus of 'I would rather pay more but not cut the service,' it wasn't singing at any of the hearings we’ve been attending.”

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a simple proposition...

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Give me your money or I stick a shiv in your ribs. That's basically the T's two scenarios. So obviously people are saying don't remove the service, but that doesn't mean they're saying go ahead with the fare hikes you proposed. Davey knows that. 175% increase on bus passes for Seniors on a fixed income? 83.3% increase on student bus passes? They're trying to fill in the budget gap that was caused by the legislature's asinine projections (that the sales tax revenue would continually go up every year like bacteria growth) on the backs of the people least able to afford it.

We've got major universities, medical facilities, financial service giants, biotech and general development (including luxury condo developments) all making extensive daily use of the system and marketing themselves to potential employees, clients and buyers on the basis of their access to transit. Should they be involved in the solution here in addition to the riders?

Let's be honest

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The percent increase for senior/TAP fares is only so high because the existing fares are so low to begin with.

The 175% increase is 40 cents to $1.10 (for a one way bus fare; not a monthly pass, which would go from $20 to $40).

Most big U.S. transit systems charge about a dollar for seniors and people with disabilities. Federal law says the discount fare can't be more than half the full fare.

If someone can't afford $2.20 per day or $40 per month for transportation, I hope they're getting some other sort of financial assistance.

you're right

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Yeah, using the percentage increase is one way to make it sound a lot worse, although for folks on a fixed income, this is not as small as we might like to believe. Especially when the financial assistance they are receiving might be at risk in the current political climate. The testimony at these hearings is not a case of people saying, "aw gee, ok we'll pay a bit more since we've been getting away with a cheap deal for so many years." There are folks commuting in on the commuter rail who are saying that the fare increases are enough to result in their not being able to get to work. Or for youth making the decision between taking the bus to school or to work after school, but not both.

The MBTA has a HUGE hole in their budget from a backlog of maintenance and massive debt. Starting the conversation with fare increases and service cuts that do NOTHING to address these root issues is a stupid political BS move, nothing more. Let's talk about the real problems and then afterwards we can see how gradual, incremental fare increases can be incorporated into a FULLY FUNDED, FUNCTIONAL transit system. Paying more for less service and that service being so sketchy due to lack of maintenance, with the same problems still present for resolution next year, seems like a monumentally stupid starting point. A few folks need to grow a pair (testes or ovaries, depending on your preference) and take responsibility for doing their jobs -- whether they are elected officials or bureaucrats. To quote a frequent UHub poster -- Cripes.

It's probably more than $2.20 a day

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Senior/Tap passes don't have any transfer privileges, so a bus + subway trip would be $2.20 *each way*. My disabled sister has about $10 left from her disability check after subtracting rent, oil heat (averaged), gas, electric, phone and prescriptions. Notice I did not include food in the list. Luckily, she does have other support (guess who) but not everyone's as lucky. The difference between $20 per month and $40 per month is significant for people on a low income. So are the other proposed hikes for everyone else.

If you are disabled ...

And you don't have a somebody else bankrolling some of your expenses, that extra money hurts. It hurts double because YOU HAVE NO CHOICE but to take the T to do all the things you need to do to live. Few people can afford to maintain a car or put gas in a car on the kind of money SSD provides.

If they cancel my express bus, I'll just drive with my husband and/or a friend or two when I'm not biking. It ain't no thang, because we make good money. I'll hate it, but I can manage nicely. But my recent promotion netted me more increase in my salary than my aunt makes on SS disability makes IN A YEAR!

If you only make $12K a year, and $1K of that goes to your health care, this really sucks.

(markk, you rock. My aunt is very much a sister to me and she cared for my elderly parents in their final years, so I take care of her. Unfortunately, not all disabled folk have well-heeled people to love them.)

Senior/TAP fares

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Senior/TAP cards (please don't call them passes when we're talking about one-way fares) certainly do include transfer privileges.

Here's the chart posted at stations: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandiegobravo/2851213... .

On the senior/TAP row, note the 40 cent fare in the bus+bus column, and the 60 cent fare in the subway+bus column.

I understand that plenty of people have financial problems. But how low do T fares have to be as a result? How do people on disability manage in other cities, where the discount one-way fare is about a dollar instead of 40 cents?

It really should be free

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A lot of my clients have seriously no money.

They might be getting SSI (which is like $600 a month, especially if you've never worked and don't also get the SSDI part), but a lot are having wages garnished because of things like rent/utilities owed when they were hospitalized, or having totaled a car, or having signed up for some overpriced cable service being peddled door-to-door that the Attorney General still says they're liable for because they can sign their name even though they can't comprehend amounts of money, or other such things that tend to happen to people who have a disability that means they can't work.

Yet other people have small amounts of disposable income, like a few bucks a week, but just really don't have the willpower, no matter how many times I try different strategies with them, to choose to save a couple bucks for their doctor's appointment rather than spend it on a lottery ticket or matchbox cars or things that are blue and can be lined up in the collection of things that are blue.

The ironic thing is that if these people miss enough appointments that their health or benefits or other important things become jeopardized, I can get Medicare to send out a cab, which is hundreds of taxpayer dollars instead of a couple of dollars.

Yes, *some* people need help

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Yes, *some* people need help paying for transportation.

But there are plenty of people over 65 or with a disability, who don't need a 68% discount on T fares.

If $40 per month is more than someone can afford for transportation, they should get more financial assistance in general.

Congestion tax

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Lets go Menino, time to think big, while also benefiting the city and helping public transport.

Touristy bike sharing programs aren't going to cut it. This is an issue that effects million of people a day and commerce in the city, not to mention metro Boston.

It's a start...

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Now if we could just get the Govenor to weight in. In a positive way, that is.

The number of "I don't ever

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The number of "I don't ever ride the T, so why should I pay for it?" comments is depressing.

Too bad the entire T cannot shut down for a whole week. Maybe these clueless drivers who think they pay for the full cost of their chosen mode of travel and that T riders should so the same would get a clue.

If anything, it's the T riders who should be asking drivers who commute by themselves why their chosen means of travel is such an inefficient use of the public roads.

Sort of

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Just to be clear (in case an MBTA employee tries to contradict you) your T fares are paying off the debt on Big Dig-related projects. These projects were transit-related and were forced on the state by a lawsuit to mitigate all the additional cars (and air pollution) that the Big Dig would put on the roads. To offset that impact the state was forced to expand and improve the T through various projects whose debt was dumped on the T back in 99ish when the forward funding plan went through.

So you're not paying for building it, you're paying for the projects that were required to offset the effects of its construction.

Yes

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I often analogize it to the situation where someone offers to take you out to dinner as some kind of repayment, but then they sneak around and steal your credit card to pay for the dinner.

Transportation Finance Commission

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I've read their report and written about it before. One of the recommendations they made is to have the $1.8 billion of Big Dig debt moved from the MBTA to the Commonwealth (to undo what Cellucci did, essentially). Strange that Rep. Provost neglected to mention that.

Here's how to fix the T's

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Here's how to fix the T's finances:

1) Get the capital debt off the T's books. That's 30% of operating costs right there.
2) Increase the health care contributions by T employees. Let's set a goal of 20% of private sector out-of-pocket costs.
3) Reduce the number of inspectors, and police standing around at construction sites.
4) Fire the *small* percentage of station attendants who hide in their booths rather than help people at the ticket machines.