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MassDOT board of directors approves 5% MBTA fare hike, effective July 1

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s board of directors voted Wednesday to increase Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority fares by 5 percent, effective July 1.

Under the plan, originally proposed in March, CharlieCard adult subway fares will increase from $2.00 to $2.10, and adult bus fares will increase from $1.50 to $1.60. Student fees will also increase from $1.00 to $1.05 for the subway and $0.75 to $0.80 for the bus.

Boston residents met at the State Transportation Building last month to express concerns about the proposed fare changes. Attendees at the public hearing said the city’s low-income families could not afford the increases and the MBTA was not making decisions with the entire community in mind.

“While we don’t like to raise fares at all and we understand that it can be a burden for some people, these fare increases are necessary to help us continue to provide service at the levels in which we do,” said MassDOT spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

In addition to the fare increases, the student 5-day monthly pass will be increased to $1, and the student 7-day monthly pass will be decreased to $2, making both passes $26.

Smith cited the MBTA’s financial deficit as a major factor in the decision to raise fares. One construction project, the Big Dig, spanned nearly two decades and cost more than $24 billion, a sum MassDOT is still struggling to pay off.

“The MBTA has been carrying a heavy debt burden, partially because of the Big Dig,” she said. “We have a giant service backlog that needs to be taken care of, and there is a limited amount that comes from tax revenue that funds the Authority.”

Smith said the fare hikes will generate approximately 20 to 24 million dollars annually and are expected to result in less than 1 percent loss in ridership. The MBTA aims to implement gradual fare increases as opposed to large, infrequent increases, she said.

“By instituting these fare increases in smaller amounts on a more regular basis, we hope that it will enable people to plan a little better,” she said. “We’re also glad that part of this proposal was not to include service cuts, so we can continue to provide service at the level that people are used to now.”

The Central Transportation Planning Staff conducted an impact analysis for the MBTA in March to predict how the fare increases could impact low-income and minority residents. The results concluded there would not be a disproportionate effect on these groups.

Dave Jenkins, program director for the Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Program, called the new MBTA budget “irresponsible” and said it failed to address Boston residents’ major concerns.

“It doesn’t do anything to address what we call the youth affordability crisis—the fact that a third of young people are priced out of the MBTA in this city,” he said.

Jenkins said even small fare increases have a large impact on low-income riders. For the past seven years, REEP has advocated for a Youth Pass for MBTA riders from ages 10 to 21 that would cost $10 per month.

“If you’re on a fixed low income, and transportation is a huge percentage of your budget, and it goes up, how could that not impact you?” he said. “Every increase, by definition, disproportionately impacts poor people, because the lower income you have, the higher percentage of your budget you’re spending on public transit.”

Several BU students expressed concerns that the fare increases will burden students and others dependent on public transportation.

Lindsey Perreault, a rising senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said the fare hikes were an irresponsible way to combat debt the MBTA has accrued.

“For people who take it two to four times a day, the increase will affect them,” she said. “That’s money that could be used elsewhere.”

College of Arts and Sciences rising sophomore Ose Aimua said over an extended period of time, increasing the cost of MBTA services could negatively impact college students.

“If the change became more dramatic, it could create issues for frequent riders,” he said. “Making a small increase to spread out the costs and debt makes sense. The Big Dig purchase got them into debt, but big changes with fares might backfire and cause problems.”

Lauren Ribner, a rising senior in CAS, said though her parents cover her MBTA fare to commute to and from BU, the fare hike could still be a financial drain for those who use public transportation.

“There will be some people who will be discontented, but a lot of them don’t have a choice, especially college students and those who commute,” she said. “They have to deal with it.”

Mina Corpuz contributed to the reporting of this story.

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