In a story familiar to New Yorkers, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is facing record ridership as it bottom link will soon lead to fare hikes and service cuts. As the Boston Globe reports today, October saw a record 1.35 million rides per average weekday across all MBTA subways, buses and commuter trains as the Massachusetts economy improves and gas prices remain high. Cuts, however, are on the horizon.
As the Globe notes, the MBTA is facing a $161 million operating deficit and is considering service cuts and fare hikes that would go into effect next summer. Amidst high ridership, Boston transit advocates are wary of the move. “I’m real concerned . . . because we could take what is obviously a very important and significant trend and pull the rug out from under it,” Richard A. Dimino, head of a group called A Better City, said. “The T is the workhorse for the Massachusetts economy.”
As with the MTA in New York City, the MBTA is carrying $6 billion in debt, and the deficit could lead lawmakers to eye new taxes for transit subsidies and a fare increase to “stave off significant service reductions.” It is, of course, the same old story: As costs increase and pressure to keep the fares low and affordable mounts, transit agencies slip into debt without state support. The only options are either higher taxes or higher fares. It’s not an ideal choice on either end.