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Bus cuts, fare hikes set to begin on July 1

With the MBTA’s fare and service changes announced last week, commuters will not only spend an average of 23 percent more to get to and from Boston and around the suburbs north of Boston, they’ll also have four bus routes eliminated and another five rerouted.

“Bus routes identified for adjustments were done so after careful consideration of the impact to the customer and the availability of commuting alternatives,’’ said MBTA spokeswoman Lydia Rivera. She said the T’s changes in service, along with fare increases - the first in five years - were necessary to help make up for a $160 million deficit.

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The MBTA changes, set to begin on July 1, will not affect most of the bus and rail service in the region. Still, commuters will dig deeper into their pockets, with fares jumping from $1.50 to $2 for a one-way bus ride to Boston; $2 to $2.50 for a subway ride; and commuter rail users, such as those on the Haverhill line, will pay $9.25 for a one-way ticket to Boston, a $2 increase.

Some city officials, including Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini, said they were relieved that the cuts weren’t deeper. In Haverhill, where investors have built about 500 new apartments downtown within walking distance to the train station, the T had originally proposed cutting train service to Boston on nights and weekends.

“Maintaining the current service is very critical to our whole downtown renaissance,’’ said Fiorentini. “We have about 800 new residents downtown and $150 million in new investment, and many of these people moved here because of the train service being able to get them to and from Boston.’’

‘I’m disappointed. For a lot of people, it’s their lifeline in and out of their neighborhood.’

Michael McGlynn Medford mayor
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Most commuter rail riders will pay an additional $1 each way to Boston, and in many cases more. In Salem and Swampscott, a one-way ticket will jump from $5.25 to $6.75; in Lawrence and Lowell, one-way tickets will go from $6.75 to $8.75. Also, fares for The Ride - the T’s service for the disabled - will double from $2 to $4, and some users will pay as much as $5 for the service.

North of Boston, the T also will recoup savings by eliminating some bus routes in Beverly, Woburn, Lynn, and Medford. In addition, five bus routes serving Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, and Revere have been cut back.

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In Medford, the Route 710, which brings riders from North Medford to Wellington Station, will be eliminated on July 1.

“I’m disappointed,’’ said Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, who said the cut will leave North Medford with no public transportation. “For a lot of people, it’s their lifeline in and out of their neighborhood. People forget there are a lot of seniors on fixed income who don’t have a vehicle, or are disabled. Without bus transportation they can’t get around. That’s why it’s there.’’

In Salem, the T plans to eliminate a bus line from Salem Depot to Beverly and will also reduce bus service into Beverly. Representative John Keenan of Salem said lawmakers need to take a closer look at the T’s finances in the future.

“It sends a message to all of us in the Legislature that we need to deal with fiscal stability for the entire transportation system,’’ he said.

The T’s decision to curtail bus routes 441 and 442 at Wonderland will leave Marblehead and Swampscott commuters without a direct route to Boston. Those T routes have run from Old Town in Marblehead, through Swampscott, Lynn, and Revere to Haymarket Station since 1968. Even before that, the bus routes were operated by the Eastern Mass. Street Railway.

Senator Thomas M. McGee, who represents Lynn, Marblehead, and Swampscott, did not respond to interview requests for this article. Marblehehad state Representative Lori Ehrlich said she would lobby for the routes to be reinstated. According to the T, the savings from the changes to the 441 and 442 routes will be $298,000 annually.

Ehrlich said state officials need to find a way for the routes to make fiscal sense to the commuter. She worried that the increase might shift more commuters away from the T and back behind the wheel of their car.

“We should be encouraging people to use more public transportation by making it as low-cost and as efficient as possible instead of discouraging them,’’ said Ehrlich.

The fare hikes and route changes come at a time of record ridership. In February, the T reported its 13th straight month of increased ridership. According to the T, 1.3 million passenger trips are made each weekday on its buses, subways, commuter rails, and The Ride.

Last week, on the 442 bus, commuters lamented the T’s decision to end direct service to Boston. “I think it’s outrageous,’’ said Ben Bostdorf, a Marblehead writer who takes the 442 to Boston several times a week. “There’s been such an increase in T ridership, and cutting back the service is bad business. I think the state should intervene and bail out the MBTA.’’

Diane Levin, a Marblehead lawyer who also takes the 442 to Boston, said the change in service to Wonderland will inconvenience the elderly, the disabled, and parents with young children. She also said buses during rush hours, which are already standing room only when leaving Haymarket, would be even more packed when they depart from Wonderland.

“It’s going to make a lengthy commute that much longer.’’

Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at srosenberg@ globe.com. Follow him at Twitter @WriteRosenberg.

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