BOSTON – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently submitted a letter opposing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board’s recent proposal to implement a 6.3 percent fare hike for T and commuter rail passengers.
“This is unacceptable for the roughly half a million people who need to travel to and from the greater Boston area each day to get to their jobs,” Friedman explained. “We should focus our efforts on fixing the T and commuter rail system so that it is more appealing to riders, rather than implementing unnecessary fare hikes that will discourage ridership further.”
A new study confirmed that Boston experiences the worst traffic in the country. Public transit ridership has decreased in recent years due to unreliable and inaccessible transit service options. In her letter, Friedman points out that imposing fare hikes will only exacerbate this problem by forcing more people to drive to and from work, further congesting traffic, polluting the air and stressing our roads and bridges.
Instead of asking riders to pay more as a means to generate more MBTA revenue, Friedman’s letter outlines several alternative proposals that would help accumulate revenue to support transit service without negatively impacting riders.
Among those proposed alternatives is Senator Friedman’s recently filed bill, S.1664, Act relative to the continuation of the tax on transportation network companies. Included in the 2016 Transit Network Companies (TNC) law is a twenty cent per ride fee on TNCs, like Uber and Lyft, to provide support for state and local infrastructure, assistance with new transportation technology, and service improvements for small businesses in the taxi, livery or hackney industries. This fee, however, is set to sunset. S.1664 would extend this fee indefinitely, generating over $13 million per year in new revenue.
Friedman also expresses support in her letter for indexing the gas tax to inflation and implementing some type of congestion pricing, which some experts believe is one of the more effective ways to reduce traffic congestion and encourage public transit ridership. In 2017, drivers in greater Boston spent 14 percent of their time in congestion traffic according to a study released last year. The study showed that those drivers lost $2,086 each in combined direct (i.e., wasted fuel and time) and indirect (i.e., reduced business productivity) costs while sitting in traffic.
“With so many alternative proposals out there, imposing fare hikes that place an unnecessary burden on working families who rely solely on the T or commuter rail to get to their jobs is simply not the answer,” Friedman said. “Transportation is a public good and it should not only be available to those who can afford it.”
Friedman serves on the Joint Committee on Transportation, and represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.