BOSTON, MA – Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), ranking member of the Joint Committee on Transportation, and Representative Garrett Bradley (D- Hingham) have secured a public hearing for South Shore residents to voice concerns over the MBTA’s proposed fare hike and service cut plan, recently unveiled in a briefing to legislators on January 3rd.
The MBTA has proposed two plans in an attempt to close a projected $161 million dollar budget gap in fiscal year 2013. The plans include a 35-43% increase in fares, a 19-20% reduction in service including cancellation of weekend service on the Commuter Rail, and the entire elimination of the commuter boat subsidy.
These proposed cuts come on the heels of reported ridership gains the MBTA has made in recent months. 2011 marked the T’s busiest year since 2008, averaging more than 1.3 million per weekday in November, the third straight month above 1.3 million riders. It is unclear what impact service cuts, fare hikes, and the elimination of service will have on these most recent ridership numbers.
“It is clear that the MBTA has made gains in ridership over the last two years, and taken the first steps towards reducing inefficiencies,” said Hedlund. “We should be expanding the reduction of inefficiencies instead of balancing the T’s budget on the backs of the riders and eliminating the very services that have made ridership gains over the last two years,” explained Hedlund.
There is concern among the South Shore commuting public about the elimination of weekend rail services and the elimination of the commuter boat subsidy. Anticipating this concern, Senator Hedlund and Representative Bradley pushed for the inclusion of a local public hearing on these proposals. The MBTA agreed to hold a public hearing on February 8th at 6pm at the central meeting room at Hingham Town Hall. The MBTA will hold another 19 meetings around the state to hear from residents concerning these proposals.
“I have heard from many constituents who are frustrated over the MBTA proposal to reduce and eliminate services, especially the commuter boat,” said Hedlund “I am hopeful that the MBTA will listen to the concerns of these residents with an open mind and respond to them appropriately as they did most recently in 2009.”
Rep. Bradley said, “The Hingham and Hull commuter boats are a critically important mode of transportation for my district. To eliminate this service would severely impact individuals who commute and do business in the area. If the ferry boat service were to be eliminated, along with bus service to Hingham, residents of Hull would have no direct access to public transportation. I disagree with this approach and will work with legislative leaders and state officials to discuss alternatives that address the MBTA financial situation.”
Following the completion of the public hearings in February, a final plan will presented to the MassDOT board of directors in March, followed by a board vote in April, under a timeline suggested by MBTA officials.
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