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T’s plan for fare hikes, service cuts due this week

Previous ideas spurred an outcry

MBTA administrators are expected to make a final recommendation this week on the package of fare increases and service cuts needed to balance the T’s estimated $160 million deficit for the coming year.

Some board members had asked for the recommendation in time for Tuesday’s meeting of the board’s finance committee. But board members and other officials said they do not anticipate the recommendations coming from MBTA staff until later in the week.

“We’re wrapping up loose ends,’’ Cyndi Roy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said Monday.

The board is required by law to approve a balanced budget by April 15. In January, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposed two budget-balancing scenarios that proved wildly unpopular, drawing 6,000 people to hearings and generating nearly 5,800 e-mail comments.

Under one scenario, fares rise an average of 35 percent but with deep cuts to service; the other proposal makes fewer cuts while raising prices an average of 43 percent. MBTA staff last week were still cataloguing comments made at the meetings, but a staff summary of the e-mails showed that fewer than 4 percent approved of either proposal.

Nearly 79 percent objected to any service cuts, and 24 percent said the T must hold fares steady. (The total exceeds 100 percent because some opposed both fares increases and service cuts.)

The coming recommendation will incorporate public feedback, but the T and its board have few options, officials said.

Only the Legislature and governor can direct more money to the MBTA beyond what it can raise on its own through fares, advertising, and real estate. The Senate president and House speaker have said they will not weigh in until after the MBTA board vote in April, but they have given little indication that more aid is coming.

A raft of environmental, business, and pro-transit groups have said it would be a mistake for the T to cut service and raise fares as steeply as proposed, with the MBTA setting passenger records as gas approaches $4 a gallon. “The T right now is so successful in terms of increased ridership, which is so important for the economy, for the environment, for individuals,’’ said Representative Alice K. Wolf, a Cambridge Democrat who wants legislative intervention. “We just need to find ways of mitigating any of these disastrous scenarios.’’

Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.
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