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Passengers face fare hikes as MBTA awaits potential revenue

Passengers riding the T on Sunday faced the first day of fare increases, just days after a $49 million state bailout and other plans to keep the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority afloat were proposed.

Passengers at the Kenmore T stop paid higher fares on Sunday, the first day the increases took effect. PHOTO BY SARAH ANOLIK/DFP STAFF

As passengers filtered in and out of the front doors of the Cleveland Circle Green Line train, the conductor reminded passengers that cash fare was no longer $2, but $2.50.

“I didn’t even know about the price change until the announcement this morning,” said Andre Fuller, who takes the T to work in South Boston every day. “I think it’s hard for people just out of college who need to go to unpaid internships and interviews around Boston.”

The fare hikes, which have increased prices an average of 23 percent, represent an overall push by the MBTA for greater capital in order to shrink an increasing deficit.

The increases include a 25 cent bump-up for bus fares and 30 cent rise in subway fares.

As the MBTA grapples with a $185 million deficit for fiscal year 2013, officials have proposed an array of measures and programs to raise revenue.

The increases took effect just days after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick approved a $49 million bailout for the MBTA, a move which passed with some negative speculation in the State House.

Before the passage of the bailout, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the bill would be a Band-Aid.

“The T has been very clear from the start that we will be back in this position [if this bill is passed], without a longtime solution,” he said in a phone interview.

Pesaturo said service cuts are one option the MBTA is trying to avoid.

Other proposals, such as fare hikes, would not reduce ridership, he said.

“The T will still remain very affordable, and still have the lowest fare among major transit agencies in the country,” he said.

Lydia McGuirk, who takes the Green Line to work every day and is used to New York public transportation, said she sees the price hikes as minuscule compared to New York prices.

“I lived in New York City for 10 years and every day I’m grateful for how little we pay,” McGuirk said. “Compared to most other major cities, it’s still a great deal.”

The MBTA abandoned its plan to charge $3 extra for passengers who board commuter trains without buying tickets in advance.

Customers will only pay the fee if they board at a station where they can buy tickets in advance.

“Some people expressed concern with the two-tiered fare structure that had been proposed,” Pesaturo said in an email last week.  “It will be revisited in the fall when the T introduces Mobile Ticketing to commuter rail customers.”

The fee still applies to outbound travelers who purchase fares on board a train, he said.

The MBTA presented a plan to sell station names to corporate entities. The MBTA has named 11 stations that are eligible for this program, which could raise more than $147 million over eight years, according to information from Pesaturo.

Through focus groups and phone interviews the MBTA conducted, a majority of participants supported the corporate sponsorship, provided the money garnered would directly be implemented for station maintenance.

The public also prefers that these corporation names in the same font as the station names, which would disregard company logos, according to the report.

But amidst the MBTA’s revenue-raising strategies, passengers still face the fare hikes.

Magalie Gay, a nurse’s assistant who takes the Green Line on weekends, said the price hikes and other changes by the MBTA do not make sense when trains are not running as frequently and routes are cut.

“I don’t like that they’re higher, but I still have to take the train,” Gay, who had been waiting for the Cleveland Circle train for about half an hour, said. “I don’t have a choice.”

Jasper Craven contributed to the reporting of this article.

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