MBTA ridership rates increase despite fare hikes, deficit
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 07:10
Despite a fare hike implemented on July 1, ridership on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) in August continued to increase.
According to a statistic sheet provided by MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo, ridership remained essentially level in July, the first full month in which the higher fare rates were implemented. Ridership increased 1.2 percent during the month of August compared with statistics for Aug. 2011.
“Only a month after fares were raised, MBTA ridership increased for the 18th time in 19 months,” Pesaturo told the Daily.
The fare hike was proposed in an effort to close the MBTA’s operating deficit of $185 million and was the first implemented since 2007.
On July 1, the cost of a single subway ride on the T with a CharlieCard increased from $1.70 to $2.00, and the price of a bus ride with a CharlieCard increased from $1.25 to $1.50. The price of a single CharlieTicket for a subway ride increased from $2.00 to $2.50, and the price of a single CharlieTicket for a bus ride increased from $1.50 to $2.00.
Industry analysts claimed that a 5.5 percent drop in monthly ridership was to be expected following the fare hikes.
Rates of ridership did not grow consistently and varied between each of the MBTA’s services. Pesaturo’s data indicates that the Green Line experienced lower increases in ridership than the other lines of the T following the implementation of higher fare rates. Weekday bus services experienced a decrease in ridership.
Pesaturo estimates that the MBTA now provides over 1.25 million passenger trips every weekday. The MBTA at the end of July announced that a record 400 million passengers had ridden the T within the past fiscal year.
The MBTA still faces an annual budget deficit of over $100 million, despite favorable ridership reports.
Pesaturo said that the MBTA has benefited from the overall increase in ridership but still has a long way to go until the organization can fully make up for the gap in its budget.
“The fare increase helped the MBTA close the current fiscal year’s budget deficit,” Pesaturo said. “But a deficit of more than $130 million is projected for next year’s budget.”
The MBTA board is currently discussing new ways to plug its budget gap. According to a poll survey conducted by the Boston Globe earlier this year, 40 percent of Massachusetts voters would support a state bailout of the MBTA.
“I don’t think [a state bailout would] be necessary,” sophomore Tyler Maher said. “[That strategy] didn’t work on the national level, and I think they should try to figure out why they have the problem in the first place, and then try to solve it, rather than just throwing money at it.”
Maher cited some alternative ways that the T could prevent losing money, such as tightening security to keep people from “piggy−backing” without paying for rides. However, he said he is not surprised that ridership rates have still been strong, even after the increase in fare rates over the summer.
“If you depend on the T for getting to work, I don’t think you’re going to stop riding it just because prices go up by about 30 cents,” Maher said. “It’s better than getting gas for your car and finding parking in the city and still cheaper than most public transportation systems in other major cities.”
Sophomore Jonathan Wolf also believes that the T is still a better option than driving into the city.
“It would depend on how much [the fare] goes up, but coming from New York City, where it’s $2.25 or $2.50 to get on the bus or the subway, I still see it as a net gain,” he said. “It’s a better, less expensive alternative to taking a cab, walking or finding someone with a car who can drive.”