Today the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board voted to increase public transit fares by 9.3% beginning July 1, 2016 — despite the fact that more than 2,500 people have spoken out against fare hikes online and at public meetings, with countless more using social and traditional media.
In fact, angry citizens made their feelings clear at the meeting by taking it over. Once it was clear that the Control Board was about to raise fares by almost ten percent, citizens began chanting, “DOWN WITH THE FARE HIKES! UP WITH THE PEOPLE!” and “THIS BOARD IS CORRUPT.” The Control Board called a recess, at which point Caroline Casey, an organizer for the T Riders Union, bullhorn in hand, declared that the Board no longer had authority over fares, and called for a vote from the people. (BTW, the people in attendance voted overwhelmingly not to raise fares by more than 5%).
Eventually, the Control Board returned and resumed discussing the fare hike, largely drowned out by chants and clapping. They finally voted after agreeing to institute some mitigating measures for students and to make some adjustments that will affect how the hike impacts low income people. It is ironic that the Control Board was drowned out by chants of “FIGHT THE HIKE,” during this portion of the meeting, because the vote unfortunately demonstrates that the administration, while setting up a process for soliciting public input, didn’t listen to citizens.
The FY2017 MBTA budget would have been balanced by a 5% fare increase. The Baker Administration has said that they are unable to spend more on the repair backlog than they currently have, so it is unlikely that appreciable service improvements will be realized due to the increase, either. Fares hikes have also outpaced growth of the gas tax or tolls. Since 1991, riders pay 350% more for fares while the gas tax has only gone up 3 cents, or 14%. Finally, the MBTA’s own analysis shows fare hikes will result in a loss of 6 million trips per year.
So, the fare hike won’t affect the operating budget, or the $7.3 B repair backlog. Riders are being asked to pay more for less service, yet automobile drivers, who not only benefit from public transit, but also from investment in roads and bridges, are not expected to pay more.
We at MASSPIRG are deeply disappointed by today’s vote. However, today’s meeting also reminded us how much impact citizens can make when they stand up and call for what is right. In the months to come we will continue to call for better, more equitable public transit and a sustainable way to fund it. We will hold Governor Baker and Secretary Pollack accountable and insist that they deliver on the improved system they have promised. Please join us, and bring your bullhorn!