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T proceeds with slight changes in fare hikes

It will be costlier to take public transit starting in January, following the unanimous vote yesterday by the MBTA board to hike bus, subway, commuter rail, and boat fares by an average of 25 percent.

Fare increases for buses, for the most far-flung commuter rail lines, for boats, and for The Ride paratransit service were all scaled back from the proposal issued in March.

Bus fares will go from 75 cents to 90 cents and use of the subway will cost a quarter more, or $1.25. The maximum commuter rail and boat charge will be $6 for a one-way ticket and $198 for a monthly pass.

In a last-minute gesture, the T board also promised not to hike fares again for at least two years.

Riders who testified prior to the vote yesterday said that the increases would hit the people least able to pay. They also complained that service, particularly bus service, was uniformly poor in urban neighborhoods. And they bemoaned the lack of a free or discounted bus-to-subway transfer.

"The T is cheap for a one-seat ride, but for those who transfer, the system is the most expensive in the country," said Nicole Jabaily of the advocacy group MassPIRG, part of the Beat the Fare Increase coalition.

T officials said they would look at discounting transfers when an automated fare collection system is in place, using farecards instead of tokens. Implementation is due to start next fall.

Khalida Smalls, coordinator of the T Riders Union, said she was encouraged by the T's promise to establish a Rider Oversight Committee, which will track complaints about service.

MBTA general manager Michael Mulhern said the fare hikes, which will raise an estimated $49.1 million in additional revenue annually, were necessary to maintain existing service, close a budget deficit, and help fund $2.8 billion in capital improvements, which include rebuilding Red Line stations in Dorchester and at Charles/MGH; modernizing Blue Line stations; upgrading the bus fleet with cleaner vehicles; and building the Silver Line from South Station to Logan Airport. The T will deploy more two-car trains on the Green Line, offer express service on the Fitchburg line, improve frequency on the busiest bus routes, increase supervision on targeted bus routes, and hire more police officers and conductors, Mulhern said.

The T also agreed not to propose another fare hike until after January 2006 and to keep the average age of buses at 8 years. Average age is now 14 years. Some who testified said that making public transit more expensive would provide an easy excuse for people not to use it. Martha Bewick, a member of Advocates for Transportation Alternatives, said that it will cost $12 to take the Hingham commuter boat roundtrip, plus $2 for parking. Many people will drive into Boston and park at Fan Pier for $7, she said, for half the cost and the greater convenience of driving.

Anthony Flint can be reached at flint@globe.com.

MBTA fares rise
The MBTA board yesterday approved an average 25 percent hike in subway, commuter rail, bus, and boat fares, but scaled back proposed increases for buses, outlying commuter rail stations, boats, and the paratransit service, The Ride. The fare hike, which takes effect in January 2004, is the first since 2000. The board promised not to raise fares again for at least two years.
Cash fares CURRENT NEW
BUS
Adult $0.75 $0.90
Seniors/Disabled $0.15 $0.25
SUBWAY
Adult $1.00 $1.25
Seniors/Disabled $0.25 $0.35
COMMUTER RAIL
$2.50
to $5
$3.25
to $6
COMMUTER BOAT
Hingham/Quincy $5.00 $6.00
Hull $4.00 $6.00
The RIDE $1.25 $1.60
Night Owl $0.75
to $2.00
$1.50
to $4.00
MONTHLY PASSES
Bus $25 $31
Subway $35 $44
Combo $57 $71
Combo Plus $63 $79
Commuter Rail $85
to $159
$106
to $198
Commuter Boat $169 $198
WEEKLY PASSES
Combo $12.50 $16.50
Combo Plus $14.00 $18.50
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