Concord’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) representative, Wayne Miller, appeared before the Board of Selectmen this week to discuss proposals to cut services in town, and the consensus in the room was that the proposals are not beneficial to the community.
The MBTA is considering cutting weekend train service in Concord and eliminating trains after 10 p.m. on weeknights under one proposal. Fares would also increase by 35 percent to $8.25 for a one-way Commuter Rail ticket.
Scenario two, meanwhile, would keep weekend service, but hold to no trains after 10 p.m. as fares would increase 43 percent to roughly $9 per ticket.
“This is a somewhat drastic increase in rate,” said Miller. “Other communities are looking at higher rates, but with no service cuts. We seem to have no benefit from the higher rates (in Concord).”
Miller related that the MBTA does not plan to make any other changes to service than those outlined.
“Is the MBTA playing a game here?” asked Selectman Stanly Black.
Miller answered that he did not believe they were doing anything that they did not find to be necessary, saying that the MBTA is “legally required to run a balanced operations scale. But the MBTA has among the highest debt load in the country.”
Miller told the board that the MBTA spent the last several years refinancing its debt, but that those interest payments are coming to a due date and the belief is that the payments cannot be pushed out any further.
“There was a question of doing a huge fare increase with no service cuts, but the feeling was that they wouldn’t have enough ridership to bring in money,” Miller said of the MBTA.
Asked if parking fare increases could also be seen down the line, Miller said that he would have to look into the matter. Currently, the West Concord station charges for parking, while Concord Center does not.
“This is a Draconian process to me,” said Black. “Is there any hope of getting (the MBTA) to reevaluate this? I can’t imagine the ridership putting up with it.”
Selectman Carmin Reiss related her belief that the fare price hikes will simply buy more time and not address the debt situation.
Miller related that the MBTA is currently holding forums open to the public in an effort to gain insight from riders. He also pointed out that the fare raises proposed are the first in several years from the T.
Selectman Elise Woodward told those gathered that she would urge anyone affected by the proposed changes to write to members of the State House in Boston and voice their displeasure. Miller said that writing to state officials was worthwhile as they could change the debt structure, address the gas tax for the MBTA and take other similar measures.
Selectman Greg Howes also urged letters to state officials from the residents, but pointed out that having proactive ideas was better than simply writing to say that they disagree with the fare increases.
“We need to be specific in what we want as a community,” he said.
The MBTA has provided a Fare and Service Changes Information Booklet on its website.