Letter to MBTA Against Fare Hikes

March 2, 2016

Chairman Joseph Aiello
MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910

Boston, MA 02116

Dear Chairman Aiello and Members of the Board,

I write on behalf of the residents of Malden to urge the Board to reject the two fare increase proposals under consideration, which far exceed the more predictable and bearable 5% increase that riders have endured over the last several years.  I also urge the Board to protect and expand the MBTA’s Reduced Fare Programs for the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, especially if the Board adopts such drastic fare increases.

The MBTA is considering these proposed increases to help remedy major structural budget deficits, but the projected revenue gains from either of these fare proposals does not significantly ameliorate the MBTA’s financial woes.  What is significant about these proposals, however, is the impact they would have on MBTA’s riders, and on working-class individuals and their families throughout the Greater Boston area.

As it stands, 7.9% of workers in my district who rely on the MBTA for transportation live at or below the poverty line, according to an analysis of the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.  The suggested increases in fares would have a drastic impact on these working class families in Malden and in other communities in the Greater Boston area.  Households in Boston average 445 public transportation trips annually, resulting in a total cost of $592, according to the Housing and Transit Index.  This $592—for a family of four living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level—represents 24% of the household’s annual income.  Any fare increase for such a family would lead to even more difficult choices between transportation, rent, food, and other necessities.

The MBTA already has a system in place for assisting middle and high school students, senior citizens, and those with disabilities to afford transportation.  I recommend expanding this program to families and individuals making 100%-200% of the Federal Poverty Line, similarly to how other public transportation authorities operate across the country.  As the majority of lower-income riders rely on rapid transit and the bus, this program would be most effective by providing fare relief for rapid transit and bus riders.  I also recommend that the MBTA partner with anti-poverty organizations like Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to determine who would be eligible for the expanded Reduced Fares Program and to raise awareness and participation amongst eligible commuters. 

I urge you to reject any fare increase proposal above 5%, and to adopt the proposed expansion to the MBTA’s Reduced Fares Program to help alleviate the disproportionate burden felt by individuals and families in poverty that rely on the MBTA to get to work.


Steven R. Ultrino, Ed.D.
State Representative
33rd Middlesex District