Councilors: MBTA takes city for ride
Rip high fee for poor service
Boston isn’t getting bang for its buck on MBTA service, according to city councilors who say it’s time to reconsider the city’s multimillion-dollar annual transit assessment as the agency once again mulls jacking up fares.
The council is calling for a hearing on the city’s annual local MBTA payment, which hit $85.8 million last year — 51.6 percent of the total payment from Massachusetts cities and towns and 4.4 percent of the T’s nearly $2 billion operating budget, according to Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu.
Wu said that high payment wasn’t being answered with highquality service, and said Boston needs to use its financial clout to demand better treatment.
“It’s time to talk about what we’re getting from our annual payment to the T. How can we use this to leverage the partnership we have?” Wu said, adding the prospect of the T raising fares pushed her to call for the hearing. “How can we use this to ask for more equitable treatment for residents?
“This payment is being made on behalf of all residents out of their taxpayer dollars, and yet the service our residents are getting is not at the level they deserve,” Wu said.
State law requires the 175 cities and towns with MBTA service to kick in cash for a Local Assistance Fund, which is currently at more than $160 million and increases by 2 percent every year. Contributions are based on the percentage of a city’s population in the total MBTA service area and the amount of service provided.
And some communities have heavy multipliers on their payments. Boston has the highest factor, with its base payment multiplied by 18 due to its large population and extensive T service. Brookline and Cambridge have multipliers of 12, and other Boston-area municipalities are weighted at 9.
But Boston’s massive payment isn’t reflected in the service it receives, Wu and Hyde Park Councilor Tim McCarthy said, citing commuter rail prices in the heavily populated areas in the western part of the city. While much of Boston is in commuter rail Zone 1A, a stop like Readville is in the pricier Zone 2, along with areas such as Woburn and Waltham.
McCarthy said the $6.75 ticket, compared to a $2.65 T card, has residents shunning the Readville commuter rail stop and parking in neighborhoods in order to find a cheaper but longer way in. He said the hearing should look at changing their fares to encourage more commuter rail ridership.
“It makes absolutely no sense; Boston residents don’t get a break,” McCarthy said. “It’s just inefficient; when I see people walking past the commuter rail station to take the bus, it bothers me.”
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said fare zones are based on distance from North and South Station, not community, and that the MBTA “works very hard to provide the city’s residents with reliable and convenient public transportation.”
NO BARgAIN: City Councilor-at-large Michele Wu is bemoaning the high municipal fee paid by Boston compared to the T’s poor performance, saying the service `is not at the level’ riders deserve.