Fare hikes on MBTA subway, bus and commuter rail services proposed
T riders may soon have to dig a little deeper to get where they’re going.
Fares for subway and bus rides on the MBTA would increase by 10 cents starting July 1, under a proposal announced Tuesday at a meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation finance committee.
The T’s fare hike proposal would also raise the monthly subway and bus pass from $70 to $75, and commuter rail monthly passes by up to $17, depending on the distance traveled.
Details of the proposed fare increases came months after transportation officials first publicized their plan to raise prices by an average of 5 percent on the subway, bus, and commuter rail lines in time for summer 2014.
Fares for The Ride service, which provides door-to-door transportation for people with disabilities, would not change. The T also would lower the price of seven-day transit passes for Boston Public Schools students to $26 per month, making it the same price as a 5-day student pass.
Jonathan R. Davis, MBTA chief financial officer, predicted that the fare increases would bring in $20 million to $24.5 million in additional revenue to the agency.
T officials are pushing for the fare increases even as they expect to have a $10 million surplus next year. Davis said that a portion of the surplus in the $1.94 billion budget will go toward improving accessibility for people with disabilities. Officials also expect to save $8.2 million next year from new, cheaper contracts with three transit and senior assistance companies for The Ride service.
Agency officials said they intend to use revenue from the fare increases to hire 284 employees by summer 2015. Davis said 133 of them will operate new services, including the upcoming one-year trial of late-night service set to start Friday and expanded off-peak service that T managers hope to begin in the fall.
They are also seeking to hire 63 maintenance workers, largely to assist with bus repairs, as well as 28 employees in connection with the new commuter rail contract.
Fares were last raised in July 2012, when prices were increased by an average of 23 percent, sparking outrage and protests from some riders. A state transportation finance law passed last year aims to end dramatic, irregular fare hikes by limiting the T to raising fares by a maximum of 5 percent only once every two years.
T officials have said their strategy is to take advantage of biennial fare increases to keep ticket prices in step with the cost of living.
“It is our hope to make this as simple and as predictable as possible for all parties,” said Charles L. Planck, the T’s assistant general manager for policy.
Ridership is expected to drop by less than 1 percent when the higher fares would take effect July 1. The proposed fare hikes will be discussed at public comment hearings scheduled for April.
The MassDOT board of directors could vote on the proposal in May.
Under the T’s proposal for 10-cent increases, a single ride with a Charlie Card on the subway would cost $2.10 and a ticket on the bus would cost $1.60.
In New York City, the cost of a single-ride subway ticket is $2.75, and a single ride in Philadelphia is $2.25.
In Los Angeles, where a ride on the Metro costs $1.50, officials are seeking to institute a schedule of fare increases, raising prices to $1.75 this year and to $2 in 2017.
The T’s switch to regularly scheduled fare increases was praised as a “sounder business practice” in a report released last week by the Conservation Law Foundation, a watchdog organization that lobbies for enhanced transportation service.
“A pattern of smaller, planned fare increases every two years . . . should be more predictable for both riders and the MBTA,” the report said.
But MassDOT board member Dominic Blue, vice president and assistant general counsel of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, told MBTA managers that he disapproves of the automatic fare hikes regardless of the agency’s financial situation.
“I think affordability should be one thing that we focus on,” Blue said after the meeting. “Create a budget and make sure it’s efficient, and then if the need is there to raise fares, then we certainly can do that.”