Metro

T will likely skip January fare increase, but parking rates may go up soon

The Orange Line morning commute on the MBTA heading inbound.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff
The Orange Line morning commute on the MBTA heading inbound.

Subway and bus fares are probably going up. But at least not for awhile.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials appear likely to delay the next fare increase until July 2019, pushing back a proposed increase by six months.

But riders shouldn’t expect a reprieve beyond that, and the cost of parking at MBTA stations will likely go up sooner, at least in some spots.

Advertisement

The MBTA’s preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year, revealed at a meeting of the agency’s governing board Monday, does not account for additional revenue from a fare increase. The plan came a week after general manager Luis Ramirez urged board members to delay a fare increase until next summer, saying the middle of winter is a poor time to change prices.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Officials did not completely rule out a January increase, however. Ramirez said a final decision about fares and the budget would fall to the board, and chairman Joseph Aiello declined to say whether the board would drop the idea. But during public discussions Monday, no board member objected to plans to delay the increase.

Fares were last raised in July 2016. State law allows the agency to raise fares by up to 7 percent every two years. But after approving the last fare increase amid protests from riders and activists, board members pledged to maintain current prices until January 2019.

By July 2019, it will have been three years between fare hikes, about as long as officials seem willing to wait.

“It’s our intent that fare increases would occur on a regular basis and we would not have a prolonged period of time without a fare increase,” said Steve Poftak, the board’s vice chairman.

Advertisement

A 7 percent fare increase would lift the cost of a subway ride for CharlieCard holders to $2.41, and a bus ride to $1.82.

Stephanie Pollack, the state’s transportation secretary, said a July 2019 fare increase would make sense because it would better align with efforts to replace the MBTA’s old ticketing equipment. By 2021, the next time the agency would be eligible to increase fares, a new electronic fare system will be in place, officials say.

Even without a fare hike in the next year, other fees may increase. The MBTA hopes to boost parking revenue by $7 million, in part by increasing rates, which have held steady for the past decade, at lots with high demand.

Details of the new parking program will be discussed in the coming weeks, and would be in place by July 1, Ramirez said.

The MBTA also expects to generate more revenue from growing ridership through its corporate pass program and by increasing advertising sales. The agency plans to cut costs through a retirement incentive program for eligible employees and changing work processes at various facilities.

Advertisement

These efforts will reduce the agency’s budget deficit, even as the MBTA adds new services next year, including daily commuter service to Foxborough and Silver Line service to Chelsea, officials said.

MBTA officials announced Monday that expanded Silver Line service would begin April 21. The “SL3” service will send buses on the existing Silver Line route toward Logan Airport, but instead of traveling to airport terminals will head northwest toward Chelsea. The $82 million project includes a bus-only roadway through Chelsea along MBTA commuter rail tracks and adds four bus stations in the city.

Jessica Casey, an MBTA planning official, said Silver Line buses will run every 10 minutes during rush hour, but less frequently outside peak times. The trip is expected to take about 35 minutes, and officials estimate 8,700 riders will take the route each day.

Casey also said the MBTA is developing procedures for buses to detour to avoid the Chelsea Street drawbridge into East Boston when it lifts during the day, including creating software that would alert drivers to the bridge’s status.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamtvaccaro.