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Repercussions Predicted with MBTA Rate Increase

It was a controversial rate hike, and local advocates say the 10 percent MBTA boost will produce more traffic jams and harm the environment. (@LISC_BVanMeter)
It was a controversial rate hike, and local advocates say the 10 percent MBTA boost will produce more traffic jams and harm the environment. (@LISC_BVanMeter)
March 9, 2016

BOSTON - When the latest Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rate hike takes effect in July, local public-transit advocates predict plenty of fallout, including more pollution and traffic jams.

Transportation for Massachusetts does not oppose all fare increases, but the group's partnership director, Josh Ostroff, said increases need to be modest and predictable. The 5 percent rate hike in 2014 did not produce a decline in transit ridership, he said, but added that this week's announced fare hike is nearly double the last one. Ostroff said research shows it will drive at least 2 percent of the current million-plus MBTA daily riders off the rails and bus lines.

"In fact, with gas prices as low as they are, it wouldn't surprise me if it's more than 2 percent," he said, "and so that's sending people out into their cars, which is really not a good strategy for Massachusetts."

Gov. Charlie Baker approved the nearly 10 percent increase on Monday, and his appointed MBTA Board has said it is needed to put the transit system on a firm footing. Ostroff said the likely influx of more cars will not only mean more traffic jams but also will harm the environment.

Ostroff said the state needs to take a more holistic approach to all of its transit needs, rather than just approving rate increases piecemeal.

"The alternative is that tomorrow's jobs will go elsewhere. That's not good for our economy," he said. "We need to make sure that businesses have good reasons to invest and expand in Massachusetts. What matters most is mobility to tomorrow's workforce."

Ostroff said the rate increase will only contribute a drop in the bucket to MBTA capital improvement needs. That's why he said state leaders need to put forward a plan to address transportation needs from the Berkshires to the South Coast and all across the Commonwealth.

"We need to make sure that we are keeping up our bridges and roads, and our buses and subways and trains," he said. "People actually want more transportation choices than they have today and not fewer - and they need to be well managed and well run. "

The rate increase takes effect July 1 and is expected to raise $42 million for the MBTA.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA