By Richard A. Davey, MassDOT Secretary and CEO and Jonathan Davis, MBTA Acting GM
Let us start by first thanking each and every one of the nearly 6,000 individuals who attended our public meetings over the last several months and the thousands more who wrote in via email or letter. We understand that the MBTA is a lifeline for many of you, without which you may not be able to get to work, school or recreational activities.
It is because of your overwhelming engagement that our final recommendation to the MBTA board includes what we believe are modest fare increases and limited service changes. While both are necessary to close the $185 million gap we face next year, the proposals we released in January would have had a significantly greater impact than our final plan.
MassDOT and the MBTA have identified a number of savings and efficiencies and one-time financial actions that can be taken to reduce the operating deficit, thus reducing the need for the larger fare increases and service reductions originally proposed. Some of the most significant actions include enrollment of MBTA staff in a new, lower cost health care program, energy purchase savings and a reduction in Authority headcount of 51 positions. Additionally, the T implemented a hiring freeze for non-critical positions.
Today, we are proposing an overall 23 percent increase in fares, which will generate $72.9 million in revenue. This is the first time in more than five years that the MBTA would raise fares. Every other major public transit system across the country has raised its fares during this time period. Many have also reduced service.
What does this mean for riders? For CharlieCard users, the subway will now cost $2 per ride. Local bus service will cost $1.50. Students and seniors will each pay $0.75 for a bus trip and $1 for a subway ride. Building on your ideas, we will offer a new 7-day student pass in addition to the current weekday-only student pass.
The RIDE, our paratransit service, will also see price changes. Over the last decade, the cost of providing the RIDE has increased more than 400%, requiring a growing slice of our operating budget. As in both previous proposals, no current RIDE customers will lose service. For RIDE trips required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the fare will be $4. For non-ADA required trips, the new premium fare will be $5 per trip.
Commuter rail single trip and monthly passes would be increased an average of 29 percent, depending upon the zone of travel. Ferry prices will be increased an average of 35 percent.
Overwhelmingly, we heard your calls to protect your service. We worked diligently to identify additional efficiencies, some legislative changes and $61 million in one-time revenues that allowed us to avoid massive service cuts next year. Those one-time sources include $51 million from MassDOT’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund; $5 million in MassDOT snow and ice surplus funds; and $5 million from leasing the North Station Garage.
Coupled with the smaller fare increase, we are proposing $15.4 million in service changes for next year, including the elimination of four weekday bus routes and modifications to 14 others. Under our proposal certain bus lines would run less frequently and others would see their routes altered.
On commuter rail, we will continue to operate full weekday service during our current service hours. However, we will eliminate all weekend service on the Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth Lines as well as Saturday service on the Needham line.
Based on your feedback, we are proposing to maintain ferry service at a higher cost to customers. We will, however, eliminate the low-ridership Quincy ferry service on the weekends.
To close the remaining gap, we will seek legislative authorization to use $51 million from the Motor Vehicle Inspection Fund, a fund that is dedicated to promoting green transportation. Without this, the air pollution impacts of cutting more service would be significant. We will also use $5 million in surplus snow and ice funds, and $5 million in other one-time savings.
We understand that even these moderate changes we are proposing today will have a significant impact on some of our customers, and we appreciate that. But we have an obligation to balance our books and to be honest with each of you about the cost of service.
This is not a permanent budget solution. As our fixed costs continue to grow, we anticipate the MBTA will have to close another deficit next year. While we have avoided drastic service cuts this year, we may not be able to in the future. The Governor and I will continue to work towards a long-term solution to our transportation funding issues and we ask you to remain engaged with us in that conversation.
The MBTA will continue to do everything it can to improve your commuting experience despite our fiscal challenges. We heard many good ideas from all of you, and we ask for your continued engagement in this conversation. It is because of your involvement in the process that we are here today.
A full report on our recommendations can be found at www.mbta.com