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Vehicle fee hikes go into effect July 1

As public transit fees are also set to increase, students rallied outside the Transportation Building Wednesday in favor of subsidized youth passes for bus and subway.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

As public transit fees are also set to increase, students rallied outside the Transportation Building Wednesday in favor of subsidized youth passes for bus and subway.

Starting July 1, the cost of registering a car and getting an annual vehicle inspection will increase by 20 percent, hikes approved by state transportation officials Wednesday.

Celia J. Blue, the new registrar of motor vehicles, announced the fee increases at a meeting of the board of the state Department of Transportation. Board members unanimously approved the new fees, which will raise the cost of registration for noncommercial vehicles from $50 to $60 and the cost of vehicle inspections from $29 to $35. The price of taking a road test will also increase, from $20 to $35.

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Prices for certificates of title, driver’s licenses, and learner’s permits will remain the same.

The fee increases are part of efforts by transportation officials to close a $53 million budget shortfall that arose after the agency began to end the practice of paying employee salaries on credit. Officials estimate that the new fees will raise $55 million to $63 million. None of the major Registry fees have been raised since 2008; the vehicle inspection fee has remained the same since 1999.

A 10 percent fee increase was outlined in a transit finance proposal put forth by Governor Deval Patrick last year, and the transportation law passed last August recommended that transportation officials look to Registry fee increases to find extra revenue.

Still, the fee hikes are not yet set in stone. In coming months, there will be public hearings and a public comment period, after which transportation officials will register the fee changes with the secretary of state’s office.

Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said officials are wary of raising the cost of driver’s licenses because they want to minimize the impact on low-income residents.

Dominic Blue, a member of the board of directors, called the fee hikes “quite substantial” and wondered whether the burden placed on drivers could have been distributed more evenly by raising prices for commercial vehicle registration. Davey said officials did not want to do that because those fees were increased several years ago.

Alan Macdonald, another board member, said he agreed with the new fee policy. “To me, this is a valuable way to get to where we’ve wanted to be over the last decade,” he said.

Davey said the agency’s strategy is to wait five years before again raising Registry fees, but that’s not a guarantee because it is an election year and a new governor would probably appoint a new agency head.

Public transit is also set to become more expensive. In coming weeks, T officials will announce fare increases that will raise prices for subway, bus, and commuter rail by an average of 5 percent.

Though the fare increases were not on Wednesday’s agenda, the board meeting drew protesters from the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition, who want a subsidized youth pass for bus and subway service.

About a half-dozen high school students told the board that they struggle to afford bus and subway fares. In some cases it is their most significant hurdle in keeping a job. They asked for a pass that would cost students $10 per month or an expansion of the current student transit passes, which can only be used during certain weekday hours, to be valid on nights and weekends, as well.

“Figure out a way to protect students,” said Lee Matsueda, political director for the transit advocacy group Alternatives for Community and Environment. “We want to make sure that we invest in the very riders who are the lifeblood of this system.”

T General Manager Beverly A. Scott said the T did not have plans for changes in youth fare rates in time for price increases scheduled to take effect this summer. She said she plans to engage in serious talks about a youth and university pass that could be premiered in 2015.

Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com.
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