The MBTA has proposed two plans, both containing drastic fare increases and service cuts, to help balance its budget. On February 1, a hearing was held at the Hennigan Community Center in Jamaica Plain for residents to comment on the plans. Of the sixty-plus people who spoke, not a single person chose one plan over the other. Except for a Northeastern University journalist who longed for an interview with T officials and thus maintained neutrality, all declared both plans unacceptable.
The MBTA (T) has found itself in this situation for two reasons. In 2000, the State Legislature forced the T to fund itself and granted it 20% of sales tax receipts. Those receipts have not met projections. The Legislature also saddled the T with $3.6 billion in debt, which has since ballooned to $5.2 billion, payments on which consume 30% of its annual operating budget.
MBTA officials know that simply meeting this year’s budget will not do much for the long term. Even if all proposed cuts are made and all fares increased, budget shortfalls will continue. Repeated service cuts and fare increases will lead to system failure.
Rather than appealing directly and publicly to state officials to forgive the debt or provide more funding, T officials have instead chosen to scare riders into doing their job for them.