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MBTA plan staves off cuts to service, but fare hikes loom

Posted by Gold_12TH on Thu Mar 29 14:28:04 2012

Municipal leaders Wednesday expressed relief that most MBTA bus lines will survive this year's budget process, in which transportation planners must fill a $160 million budget gap.

Although service cuts are off the table for now in most cities and towns, T riders can expect a roughly 23 percent fare hike come July 1, when the cost of a bus ride increases a quarter to $1.50, and for subway riders jumps to $2, up from $1.70.

Still, news of the T management's plan was welcome in Malden, where four key bus lines could have faced elimination.

"We've cleared a big hurdle today," said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson. "I think we're out of the woods here."

However, one bus route that touches Malden that will be eliminated -- the 710 -- is operated by private contractor Joseph's Transportation, and runs mostly in Medford, serving customers between Wellington Station, the Meadow Glen Mall, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and north Medford.

The other local line set to get the ax is the 355, which runs between Woburn, Medford Square, and Downtown Boston. The MBTA said riders should look to use commuter rail service to replace the bus. A call seeking comment from Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn was not immediately returned.

Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said he was pleased that middle- lower-income families in the city will not have to suffer the service cuts, lauding MBTA CEO Richard Davey's work under difficult circumstances. But the plan is only a temporary fix, Curtatone said.

"We have to have a greater and much larger discussion in this Commonwealth about the future of our entire transportation system," Curtatone said. "We're not going to get there by kicking this issue down the road year by year."

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which helps communities around Boston with transportation and land-use issues, applauded the T for limiting service cuts, but lamented the "very steep" fare increases that will drive commuters to other forms of transit.

"The 23 percent fare increase proposed today is still a significant increase," said MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen, in a statement. "It will cut daily ridership by over 5 percent at a time when we should be encouraging more people to use public transit."

Draisen also was critical of the decision to double the fare for users of The Ride, which provides door-to-door service for disabled and senior residents. One trip will now cost $4, up from $2.

"Now is the time that the MBTA should be trying to grow ridership, but this level of fare increase will permanently force people off the system," said Kristina Egan, Executive Director of Transportation For Massachusetts, in a statement. "Once fares go up, they never come down. People who use the T shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the burden of such steep fare increases. Today’s deficit is not of their making."


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