MBTA board approves fare increases, service cuts over customer protests
BOSTON — Despite 11th-hour pleas from mayors in Braintree and Weymouth, the MBTA board of directors on Wednesday approved a budget that calls for increasing fares by an average of 23 percent and ending weekend service on two South Shore commuter rail lines and the Quincy ferry line.
Four of the board’s five members voted for the budget as more than 100 protesters chanted, “Shame on you!” Board member Ferdinand Alvaro of Marblehead cast the dissenting vote, saying the Legislature could do more to help.
“If we vote in favor of this fare increase and service cut, the Legislature will use this as an excuse to do nothing,” Alvaro said.
Under the budget plan, fares for riders using the CharlieCard would increase from $1.25 to $1.50 on buses, and from $1.70 to $2 on rapid transit lines like the Red Line.
Fares on the ferries would increase from $6 to $8 for trips to Boston from Hingham, Hull and Quincy, and from $12 to $16 for trips to Logan Airport.
The budget calls for eliminating weekend ferry service to Quincy and weekend commuter rail service on the Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth lines.
The Wollaston section of bus route 217 would be eliminated.
Mayors Susan Kay of Weymouth and Joseph Sullivan of Braintree wrote a letter to the board urging it to preserve weekend commuter rail service, which they said would be “an important component” for the ongoing redevelopment of Weymouth Landing.
“The Greenbush line is huge for development and, depending on what type of businesses we get in the Landing and keep there, weekend service may be vital,” Kay said.
Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, said he has not given up on reversing some elements of the budget and may talk about the “inequity” of the proposed ferry fare hikes on Monday during at a Transportation Committee hearing that will focus on aspects of the T’s budget that require legislative action.
“I’m not saying all forms should be subsidized equally, but I do think there should be some equity,” Hedlund said. “When you overly subsidize some riders and don’t subsidize others, it’s patently unfair.”
Fare hikes on the ferries are among the steepest sought in the budget plan, and they would produce enough revenue to cover most the $3.7 million subsidy paid to boat operators in fiscal 2011, according to state officials.
MBTA acting General Manager Jonathan Davis told protesters Wednesday that the agency had no choice but to make sacrifices.
“The transit system that you people want is one we absolutely cannot afford,” he said.