SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 10, 2013

MBTA chief still wary of budget, fare needs

BOSTON — Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are still waiting for some budgetary certainty after voting in late March to leave a $118 million hole for the Legislature to plug with new revenue expected to be generated by transportation tax legislation.

And with that issue undecided, the MBTA’s head says she’s still wary of the need for a potential new round of fare hikes or service cuts in the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

“We are still waiting. We are very optimistic ..., but we don’t have the final decisions,” MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott told WGBH, saying she could not rule out fare increases next fiscal year.

Gov. Deval Patrick had pledged to veto the House tax bill, saying it was too small, and he was measured in his discussion of the Senate’s version.

As the branches reconcile the bills, it’s unclear what Patrick’s reaction will be to a final plan. The Senate bill devotes more revenue than the House by sending to transportation money from a 2.5-cents-per-gallon-of-gas fee that funds underground storage tank removals.

Patrick’s plan called for regular, modest fare increases for the MBTA and other transportation services, while the House and Senate plans both required the Department of Transportation to cover a greater percentage of its budget, either through raising fees or adopting more efficient practices.

“We’ve got 2015, and all of the plans have said there are going to be increases that wind up taking place on all user fees every couple of years,” Scott said.

At one point, Scott contradicted host Jim Braude, when he asked about a decline in ridership going back to July, when fares were raised an average of 23 percent.

“Well actually, overall ridership is up,” Scott began.

A spokesman said she may have misspoke, but said there have been monthly ridership increases in 20 of the last 27 months and 28 of the last 38.

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