From the Red to the Green lines, at train stations and commuter rail stops, hundreds of volunteers mobilized during the Monday morning commute to engage MBTA riders who said they were frustrated with slow, crowded trains on the first day that higher fares went into effect.
“There’s no reason the fares should be going up — we are paying more for worse services,” said Jay Henderson, 32, who was waiting for a train at Ashmont Station just after 7 a.m. on the way to his IT job in the Seaport. He stopped to talk with City Councilor Michelle Wu, who organized the region-wide canvass, taking one of the 15,000 fliers and 14,800 stickers that were passed out.
On the first day of the 6 percent fare hike — the fourth increase since 2012 — riders encountered slow trains and crumbling station infrastructure. At the JFK/UMass Station, where a train derailed last month, Wu pointed out that the board listing arrival times wasn’t working. And once on the traveling train, the intercom repeated at every stop, no matter the location, that the next station was JFK/UMass.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Edward “Jody” Harris, 47, of Hyde Park, who described to Wu when his bus ride cost a quarter.
Outside Park Street Station, volunteers shouted “unfair hikes” as they passed out fliers. “You’ve got to pay more, to get to work late,” one cheered to exiting riders.
And, by the start of evening’s commute, an overhead power problem caused the MBTA to replace trolley service between Ashmont and Mattapan with shuttle buses.
Mervin Adams, 70, was “disappointed because the price went up today,” she said. “I now have to figure out how to get home.”
As of July 1, the fares increased from $2.25 to $2.40 for a one-way ride on a CharlieCard, and monthly passes have gone up from $84.50 to $90. Commuter rail passes have increased as well, depending on the zone. The fare for bus rides, at $1.70 with a CharlieCard, was not included in the new hikes, and rates for seniors, people with disabilities, and students have not changed.
The MBTA has said that the fare increases, which could generate more than $29.5 million, will help fund improvements to the system, and will still be the lowest among major transit systems in the country.
Transit officials noted the MBTA has embarked on an $8 billion capital plan over five years to make improvements, which include the complete replacement of the Red and Orange Line fleets, with more than 150 new Orange Line cars slated to be in service this summer. (The cars, the newest the MBTA has purchased in decades, were originally slated to arrive in late 2018.)
After last month’s train derailment, which could affect Red Line service for the rest of the summer, the MBTA rejected calls to postpone the increases, saying it was too late to change course. Following pressure from riders and officials, the MBTA announced an independent review of the system’s overall safety, and Governor Charlie Baker called for an immediate $50 million infusion for the system to accelerate maintenance work.
“After decades of neglect, the T has made progress towards addressing the core infrastructure needs of the system and over the course of five years will make investments that include new trains, buses, tracks, signals, power systems, and maintenance facilities,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement, adding that
“MBTA riders deserve the best possible service.”
Monday morning’s mobilization, which involved more than 300 volunteers, including more than 50 candidates and elected officials, was meant to educate riders on how to vocalize their frustration and challenge the hikes. The fliers listed alternatives to the charges, such as an increase to the gas tax, pointing out that a 1-cent-per-gallon increase could reverse the hikes.
The fliers also called for added fees on the ride-hailing industry, such as Uber and Lyft, as well as community and rider representation on the MBTA’s governing board, whose members are appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.
Wu, who initiated a petition drive in February to oppose the fare increase and organized a rally Sunday, said she was encouraged that riders wanted to be more vocal to challenge the hikes, agreeing that the city and riders should have representation on the governing board.
“Everybody knows about (the hikes), is mad about it, and wants to do something,” Wu said. “It’s really exciting to feel the energy in this moment, that everyone across the city is ready to see change.”
“I hope the switchboards at the State House light up with calls from people who don’t want this issue to be kicked down the road for future residents,” said David Fadul, an Emerson College student, who passed out fliers.
Justin Suarez, 21, arrived at Oak Grove Station in the morning for his commute to Cambridge, and brought the exact change for a fare. Only, he forgot about the increase. One of the protesters handing out fliers gave him the additional 25 cents to ride.
“The services aren’t good enough in the first place,” he said.