New MBTA Plan Would Eliminate Weekend Commuter Rail Service in Needham
Updated proposal would preserve the town's Bus 59 route and include a 23 percent fare increase across the board.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced an updated budget plan today that would eliminate weekend Commuter Rail service in Needham but preserve the local bus route, Bus 59, that many people working and living in town rely on daily.
The new plan, announced in a news release posted at 11:30 a.m. on mbta.com, serves to close a $185 million gap in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s budget for fiscal year 2013. Along with limiting the service cuts originally proposed, the new plan includes an average fare increase of 23 percent, as opposed to the 35-43 percent increase outlined in the original proposal.
The final proposal will be submitted for MBTA board approval by April 4 and is the result of more than two months of public meetings where 6,000 customers gave feedback on two scenarios proposed by MBTA staff in January.
“The proposal we put forth today reflects our current fiscal reality and the feedback we heard from customers,” MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey said in the news release. “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.”
Needham residents were among the vocal majority who spoke out against the first two scenarios, saying the changes would hurt the town’s ability to attract homebuyers and businesses and hinder current residents’ ability to get in and out of Boston for work and leisure.
At a March 13 meeting, Needham selectmen voted to send a letter to state legislators urging them not to support the original proposal and to seek alternatives to solving the MBTA’s budget problems.
The new plan announced on March 28 would eliminate Saturday Commuter Rail service on the Needham Line (Needham already does not have Sunday service). And while four weekday bus routes are being eliminated—in Jamaica Plain, Woburn, Newton and Medford—Needham’s Bus 59 would continue its current service under the new plan.
The plan also calls for a revised schedule for 14 other bus routes (see the full plan at mbta.com).
As for fare increases, a one-way trip on the Commuter Rail’s Needham Line would cost $1.25 more, from $4.75 to $6 (an increase of 26.3 percent). Local bus fares would increase by 20 percent, from $1.25 per ride to $1.50 per ride.
In addition, prices will go up for student and senior riders. Adults age 65 and over who now pay just 40 cents for a bus ride will pay 75 cents per ride under the new plan. Subway rides will go up from 60 cents to $1 for seniors.
Student bus fares will increase from 60 cents to 75 cents, while subway rides will increase from $85 cents to $1 under the new plan.
“This would be the first MBTA fare increase in five years and still keep public transit prices in Boston lower than many major cities including New York, Atlanta, and Chicago,” transit officials said in the news release. “The fare increase is expected to generate $72.9 million next year.”
Full details of all fare and service changes can be found at www.mbta.com (or listed in a PDF at right).
In addition to the cuts and fare increases, the new MBTA budget plan calls for additional one-time revenues which will help cover the budget gap in fiscal year 2013 only. These include: $51 million from the MassDOT Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund; $5 million from the MassDOT snow and ice surplus; and $5 million from the North Station Garage Lease Payment, according to the news release.
MassDOT and MBTA officials also have promised to make several customer service enhancements over the next year, including:
- LED Countdown signs at each curbside Silver Line stop at Logan Airport;
- A Mobile Ticketing Pilot on the Commuter Rail;
- Exploration of off-peak pricing;
- and Consolidated Customer Service Center at Downtown Crossing Station
If approved by the MBTA board on April 4, the changes would take effect on July 1.