MassDOT, MBTA Recommend Balanced Proposal to Close MBTA FY13 Budget Gap
BOSTON – Wednesday, March 28, 2012 – Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey and Acting Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager Jonathan Davis today announced their recommended proposal for closing the MBTA’s $185 million budget gap for next fiscal year.
Under the proposal, the MBTA will use a combination of administrative efficiencies, fare increases, service changes and one-time revenues to close the gap. In addition, Secretary Davey and GM Davis announced that the MBTA is moving forward on a number of fronts to make riding the T more convenient for its 1.3 million daily riders. Building on the T’s open data efforts, the MBTA will be working in the coming weeks to make real time data available by text at bus stops. Also, the MBTA is working to bring “countdown clocks” to key MBTA stations as has been recently tested at Logan Airport’s Terminal C.
The final proposal, which will be submitted for MBTA board approval April 4th, follows more than two months of public meetings where 6,000 customers weighed in on proposals submitted to the board by MBTA staff in January.
“The proposal we put forth today reflects our current fiscal reality and the feedback we heard from customers,” said Secretary Davey. “We have put forth a solution that limits the impact on riders for one year but I encourage everyone to remain engaged in helping us find a long-term fix for the T’s budget challenges.”
In January, the MBTA put forward two proposals to close the budget gap. One proposal relied on higher fare increases and fewer service reductions; the other provided a lower fare increase with more significant service reductions. Throughout the public hearing process, T riders consistently advocated to preserve as much existing MBTA service as possible. In response, the final proposal relies more on fare increases than service reductions. In addition, the proposal identifies $38 million in administrative, operational and financial efficiencies and nearly $61 million in one-time revenues.
Use of one-time revenues means the MBTA will face an estimate budget gap of $100 million in Fiscal Year 2014.
“At the dozens of public meetings on the original proposals, I heard our customers speak eloquently and passionately about the important role the MBTA plays in their lives,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis. “In response, we have developed a plan that demonstrates our strong commitment to continue providing transit services that are reliable, convenient, and affordable.”
MassDOT and the MBTA, working together during the public comment period, identified a number of cost savings to help reduce the operating deficit from the original $185 million. Each of these items reduced the need for the larger fare increases and service reductions proposed in January. Some of the most significant actions include enrollment of MBTA staff in a new, lower cost health care program, energy purchase savings and a reduction in Authority headcount of 51 positions. Additionally, the T implemented a hiring freeze for non-critical positions.
The final proposal recommends an average fare increase of 23 percent. This would be the first MBTA fare increase in five years and still keep public transit prices in Boston lower than many major cities including New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. The fare increase is expected to generate $72.9 million next year. Full details of all fare and service changes can be found at www.mbta.com
The proposal also includes an increase for seniors and students, who currently pay just a fraction of the fares paid by other individuals. Seniors would now pay $0.75 for a bus ride and $1 for a subway ride. Students would pay $0.75 for a bus ride and $1 for a subway ride. Students would also see a new weekly pass option that would provide a discounted ride 7-days-a-week in addition to the current 5-day week discount.
The Ride paratransit service, where program costs have increased by 400 percent over the last decade, would be changed to $4 per trip. The MBTA would continue to serve customers outside of the ADA-required service area, with customers there now paying $5 per trip.
Commuter rail single trip and monthly passes would be increased an average of 29%, depending upon the zone of travel. Ferry prices will be increased an average of 33%.
The final recommendation includes service changes that will result in a savings of $15.4 million.
The plan includes the elimination of just four weekday bus routes and a revised schedule for 14 other routes.
All weekday and all weekend ferry service will be continued except for weekend Quincy service.
Weekend service on the Green Line’s E-Branch will be maintained outbound as far as the Brigham Circle stop. Customers travelling between Brigham Circle and Heath Street (a distance of 0.7 miles) will have the option of using the existing, accessible Route 39 bus.
Commuter rail trains will retain all weekday service. Weekend service on the Greenbush, Needham and Kingston/Plymouth lines will be eliminated.
Because the services targeted for elimination see low ridership, the MBTA estimates just 0.3 percent of current riders will be lost through the proposed fare and service changes.
The proposal includes $61 million in one-time revenues, which will be unavailable for use again in Fiscal Year 2014. They include:
- MassDOT Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund - $51 million
- MassDOT snow and ice surplus - $5 million
- North Station Garage Lease Payment - $5 million