Home Asides Dispatches from Boston: Ridership up as cuts loom

Dispatches from Boston: Ridership up as cuts loom

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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dtribone November 2, 2011 - 7:37 pm

The difference here is that many Bostonians recognize that the T fare is too low: $1.25 for a bus ride and $1.70 for a subway ride if you use a smart card. Moving to $1.50 and $2.00 is likely to have very little effect on ridership since demand is highly inelastic at these prices. At current transit fares, transit ridership is probably more responsive to changes in gas prices than to changes in fare. As a percentage of revenues, the T’s debt situation is way worse than New York’s, so I think if it has to choose between fare hikes and service cuts, the hikes will be more acceptable for the public since our levels of service are already mediocre at best. Doing both is probably the worst choice, since then people can scream about paying more for less, as happened with the MTA.

Larry Littlefield November 3, 2011 - 9:54 am

Commuter rail rates are even lower in Boston.

Deferred maintenance is worse.

The workers are worse than NYCT (though perhaps not the LIRR).

All the money went to the Big Dig, and suburban commuter rail expansions. The city services got screwed.

The good news: Boston is small enough to travel around by bike.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 3:30 pm

The state government in Massachusetts screwed the T even worse than the state government in NY screwed the MTA. They basically gave them no state funding for 5-10 years and told them to borrow money. Then they saddled them with debts incurred by the state government in the past.

Those policies came from the Republican governors of Massachussets, by the way — borrow-and-spend, the Republican way.

BrooklynBus November 2, 2011 - 7:42 pm

So when ridership goes down service is cut and that causes ridership to go down further. If ridership goes up, service is also cut because it costs too much to provide more service? What is wrong with that picture?

We keep on talking about increasing mass transit and reducing reliance on the automobile, but talk is cheap. It’s the actions that matter.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 3:31 pm

Eventually, the government gets overthrown.

Not over a single thing like this, but when they provide this level of “to hell with what the people want” over and over on more and more issues….

Anon November 2, 2011 - 9:53 pm

slow news day?


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