If you’re getting around on the T today, well, godspeed, and enjoy the $2.25 subway ticket while you can.
Fares have risen, and that one-way on the Red, Blue, Orange or Green lines will cost 15 cents more. The monthly LinkPass, now $84.50, shoots up to $90, and a 7-Day LinkPass goes to $22.50 from $21.25.
Meanwhile, commuters north and west of Boston, safe, and more expensive, travels. Leaving from Littleton station will cost $23.50 more on a monthly pass, from $336.50 to $360. Take the train from the Ayer or Shirley stations, and cost jumps from $363 to $388 per month, another $25.
A small note of yippee: The local bus rates (one-way and monthly) stay the same. This will be comforting, as you realize the bus coming toward your stop says “Out of Service.” Or “Not in Service.” And if someone can explain the difference between the two, we’d like to hear it. In the meantime, it’s something to ponder while you wait.
We’ve been warned, of course — signs have been up for awhile announcing the increase, with handy charts comparing old and new fares. But these have been the least of our recent T worries, what with nearly back-to-back derailments, and the train-changeover shenanigans on the Red Line in the wake of the derailment at the JFK/UMass station.
And we’re not happy. The system’s maintenance failures are well known. And yet the fares go up. Why? Because they can.
State law allows the MBTA to raise fares incrementally, limiting the spikes to once every 2 years with a cap of no more than 7% for each increase. This was voted on, of course — just not by us.
The T held public hearings earlier this year, during which citizens and lawmakers pushed back against the proposed increases: They’re not fair to low-income people who rely on public transportation, why raise the price when the quality hasn’t improved, etc. Still, the Fiscal and Management Control Board voted them in.
Which begs the question: Why, if taxes fund so much of the T, don’t taxpayers — and because sales tax is part of the take, this would include pretty much all Bay Staters — have any real agency in this?
The T board certainly takes the concerns of the public into some consideration at these hearings — note the steady bus fares, and senior and youth passes are unchanged as well — but when the MBTA wants to raise money, it’s like arguing with an avalanche.
Why not make T fare increases a ballot referendum? The MBTA would have to make their case to the good riders of Massachusetts as to why they should have more of our money — the tidy explanation on its website “While the MBTA continues to focus on controlling costs and growing non-fare revenue, this increase, which is in line with the rate of inflation in the Boston area, is necessary for the Authority to continue making system investments to improve service” is a nice little bromide, but we deserve to know more.
Weren’t past increases supposed to improve service? What did you do with the money we gave you from the fare increase in 2016? Let’s see some — and here’s a word that’s as pleasant to pols as the screech of a Green Line train curving into Boylston station — transparency.
Put your case before the public — half of the term “public transportation” — and let the people vote when, and if, the MBTA should increase fares. The money will go to improve service, you say? How and when? And how about you let riders tell you what needs to be fixed? Big new projects are great — we love the new Green Line cars — but when you’re “standing by because of signal problems up ahead,” you’re still in a tube in a tunnel.
Just a thought — if people can’t cast a ballot, they might just vote with their feet. Or UberPool.