Coun­cilors: MBTA takes city for ride

Rip high fee for poor ser­vice

Boston Herald - - NEWS - See the town-by-town list of fees be­ing paid to the MBTA cited in this story at boston­her­ald.com. By DAN ATKIN­SON — dan.atkin­son@boston­her­ald.com

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.”

STAFF FILE PHOTO BY FAITH NINIVAGGI

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.

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