BOSTON – In response to concerns about the recent community meeting held at Union Station in Worcester by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) filed two amendments to the Fiscal Year 2019 supplemental budget debated by the Senate. The amendments seek to address issues relative to the public hearing process for increasing MBTA fares, and widespread concerns regarding fare evasion throughout the public transit system.
Although both amendments were ultimately withdrawn, there was an agreement to have the Joint Committee on Transportation hold an oversight hearing regarding the fare proposal public hearing process, and the issue of fare evasion, in the near future.
Under existing state law, the MBTA may raise fares every two years at a cap of no more than 7 percent for each increase. Presently, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) is expected to vote on a system-wide fare increase of about 6.3 percent that would take effect starting July 1, 2019.
Worcester, New England’s second largest city with the second-highest Commuter Rail ridership numbers in the Commonwealth, was never selected as a location to solicit feedback about the present fare proposal. After receiving a letter signed by more than a dozen Central Mass. legislators requesting a hearing in Worcester, the MBTA agreed to hold a community meeting earlier this week. Ultimately, the meeting provided a very limited opportunity for residents to weigh-in about the fare increases.
“I was disappointed to learn that the MBTA did not provide their farthest-reaching customers the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the conversation about the proposed fare increase as part of a public hearing process,” said Senator Moore. “It is my hope that we can find a legislative approach to help ensure that the often-overlooked voices of riders outside of the Greater Boston area are heard as part of discussions related to future fare increases.”
The amendment filed by Senator Moore would direct the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to conduct a presentation and public hearing with an extended comment period regarding a proposed rate increase in each affected zone prior to submitting their annual budget request to the FMCB.
After listening to concerns from many MBTA riders, Senator Moore also championed a second amendment that would direct MassDOT to conduct an analysis, and create a plan, to improve collection of fares on all transit systems operated by MassDOT.
“At a time when the MBTA is facing significant financial constraints, it would appear to me that ensuring more consistent fare collection would be a priority,” said Senator Moore. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to further evaluate these issues, and to consider potential legislative action, during the current session.”