Every week we set out to answer a question submitted by one of our readers as part of our You Ask...Patch Answers column.
On Wednesday, we had a local resident write in with a question about the recently announced MBTA service cuts.
They asked: "The MBTA has announced their plan to cut services and hike fares. What exactly does it mean for Marblehead residents? Will there still be bus service coming to town?"
Regular commuter rail riders headed to Boston will pay 20 percent more for a monthly pass based on the MBTA’s latest – and final – plan to hike rates to close a budget gap.
But a plan to cut weeknight and weekend commuter rail service on the North Shore has been dropped.
The T’s final plan was unveiled on Wednesday and is headed for a final vote by the MBTA Board of Directors next week. If approved, the new rates would go into place on July 1.
But what about Marblehead bus service?
None of the bus routes that travel through Marblehead are expected to be eliminated.
A monthly pass for service between Swampscott and North Station would go from $163 to $212, or an increase of 30 percent. A one-way ticket would rise from $5.25 to $6.75, or 28 percent.
The first proposal to close the estimated $185 million budget gap was presented in January, calling for rates hikes of up to 40 percent and elimination of commuter rail service after 10 p.m. and on the weekends. Since then, the T said 6,000 riders attended 31 public meetings to voice their opinion. Almost 2,000 spoke at those meetings, plus the MBTA received 5,850 emails and more than 400 letters.
The feedback indicated that riders favor keeping MBTA service in place.
“In response, the final proposal relies more on fare increases than service reductions,” the T said in announcing its final plan.
It will be the first rate increase for the T in five years and T officials say it will still keep public transit costs lower than in most other metropolitan areas in the country.
In addition to the $73 million in additional revenue from fare increases, the T said that it “identified and implemented a series of savings and efficiencies” to close the gap by $33 million and “an additional $75 million in operating, administrative and financial changes have been provisionally identified.”
The final proposal calls for an average fare increase of 23 percent for all MBTA service plus “targeted service reductions.” The proposal has been submitted to the MBTA board for its approval at its April 4 meeting.
But the T is not out of the woods. Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey estimates the T’s budget gap with be $100 million in fiscal 2014.
“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,” Davey said in a prepared statement. Before taking over at the helm of MassDOT, Davey was the T’s general manager.
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