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MBTA ridership down, but fare hikes may not be to blame

In the 10 months since the MBTA raised fares, ridership on the T fell 1.9 percent compared with that period the previous year — a downturn that is more modest than projections made before the fare increases. But a T spokesman said the falling numbers might not necessarily be a result of the higher prices.

Before the hikes were put in place, T officials estimated that ridership would decrease by 5.5 percent.

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Despite the slight decline in ridership, revenue from fares has exceeded expectations, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. In March and April, the T made 20 percent more money from fares.

The fare increases, which raised ticket prices by an average of 23 percent in July 2012, did not immediately incite an ebb in ridership: Between August and November 2012, overall MBTA ridership increased compared with that period in 2011.

But since last December, ridership began to slide, with December 2012 posting 4.2 percent fewer rides than December 2011.

Ridership in all months since then have come up short compared with 2012, down 3.5 percent in February, 2.6 percent in March, and 3.5 percent in April.

Most of the decrease in ridership came from buses, ferries, light rail trains, and The Ride — a door-to-door service for disabled passengers, which saw fares double from $2 to $4. Ridership on the MBTA’s heavy rail — the red, blue, and orange lines — increased slightly from the year before.

Pesaturo said he did not believe fare increases were responsible for the total loss in ridership, which swelled in winter 2012 thanks to mild temperatures not seen this year. The T was shuttered this February for two days during a blizzard.

April’s decline was probably caused by the attack at the Boston Marathon, Pesaturo said.

“Ridership fell significantly in the immediate days following the bombings, and of course, service was shut down completely for almost 14 hours on April 19,” he said.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.
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