MALDEN – Just days after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced plans to end late-night weekend service, Representative Steven Ultrino (D – Malden) sent a letter to the MBTA urging them to oppose proposals to increase fares by up to 10%, and to expand its reduced fares program to include families living in poverty.
“Thousands of Malden residents rely on the MBTA to get to work every day, and these drastic fare increases would create a significant obstacle to many working-class individuals who are trying to work, pay rent, and take care of their families,” said Representative Ultrino of his letter. “Ultimately, the MBTA needs a funding increase. Improvements are necessary and have to be made. But that cost should not have such an outsized impact on working class families and commuters.”
In the letter, Representative Ultrino spoke out against the fare hikes, which far exceed the 5% increases that riders have tolerated in past years. Representative Ultrino also recommended that the MBTA’s Reduced Fare Program — a program that provides lower fares for the most vulnerable members of the community — be expanded to include families and individuals making 100%-200% of the Federal Poverty Line.
Representative Ultrino’s letter expressed great concern for the lower income residents of Malden and other surrounding municipalities, saying that a family of four living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Level relying on public transportation in Boston spends 24% of their annual income on transportation costs.
“As it stands, 7.9% of workers in my district who rely on the MBTA for transportation live at or below the poverty line,” wrote Representative Ultrino. “Any fare increase for such a family would lead to even more difficult choices between transportation, rent, food, and other necessities.”
The MBTA’s proposed fare increases are an effort to help remedy major structural budget deficits, though projected revenue gains would not significantly ameliorate the MBTA’s financial troubles. Representative Ultrino recommended the MBTA partner with anti-poverty organizations like Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to help determine who would be eligible for his suggested expansion of the Reduced Fares Program and also to raise awareness and participation amongst eligible commuters.