T riders face fare jump

by Beacon Staff • November 29, 2006

A midwinter chill won't be the only thing bothering Boston commuters in January. On the first of the year, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) will raise fares across the system, putting a financial squeeze on riders, including students who rely on its services to get to school.

The new fare structure will include the implementation of the CharlieCard, a rechargeable magnetic pass the size of a credit card. The cost of a ride on the subway for CharlieCard users will increase to $1.70, up from $1.25, and bus fares will go up to $1.25 from $0.90.

CharlieTickets, the current passes soldin most subway stations, will continue to be accepted, with slightly higher fares. A subway ride for CharlieTicket users will cost $2. A local bus trip will cost $1.50.

According to MBTA.com, the price of monthly passes will also be raised, and monthly subway passes will be eliminated. Instead of the $44 monthly subway pass, riders will be offered a $59 monthly LinkPass, also called a combo pass, which includes unlimited rides on the subway and bus routes.

The elimination of monthly subway passes will have a significant impact on the approximately 950 Emerson students enrolled in the semester T pass program, as the vast majority purchase the subway pass.

Students will be forced to buy a more expensive pass, the cheapest alternative of which is the LinkPass.

The cost of a LinkPass for the Spring semester (four monthly passes for February, March, April and May) will be $210.04 when purchased through the office of off-campus student services, an increase of about $55 from the $156.64 students paid for a semester's worth of subway passes this fall, according to the MBTA Web site.

"It's going to be a problem because I'm on a tight budget," said Adam Hebert, a sophomore film major. "It costs so much to live in the city and go to school, and it's just another cost."

For students whose classes are not scheduled consecutively, a T pass is almost a financial necessity to make several trips to school in one day.

They can either purchase a monthly pass, or pay each time they ride, costing considerably more.

"This is horrific," said Elizabeth Sparenberg, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major. "I have to frequently go back and forth between school. I have to go home and eat because I already can't afford the school's $10-per-meal meal plan."

Though students who switch from the subway pass to the LinkPass will pay more in the spring, students who are already enrolled with a combo pass will see their transportation costs go down.

The monthly combo pass will actually decrease in price from the current cost, dropping from $71 to $59, and according to order forms for the Spring semester T pass program, a semester-long pass will go from $252.76 to $210.04.

According to Meltem Korkmazel, retail sales program manager for the MBTA, the overall fare increase is the first since subway fares rose from $1.00 to $1.25 in 2004, and is the third increase since 2000.

The increases are being initiated to offset the MBTA's $70 million debt, as well as an anticipated budget shortfall for 2007.

While operating costs have risen, revenue has not.

The purchase of 581 environmentally friendly buses, 85 low-floor trains for the green line and other projects have also drained the MBTA's finances, according to Korkmazel.

"Like any organization, the MBTA has debts and revenue resources," Korkmazel said.

"Sometimes it doesn't balance out."

According to the 2007 Fare Increase Environmental Findings Report, available on the MBTA Web site, the increase is expected to bring in an extra $68 to $72 million next year.

According to the MBTA Web site, officials expect between 2.8 and 6.1 percent of riders to seek alternate methods of transportation, mainly automobiles.

"As with any increase, there will be a decline in usage," Korkmazel said. "We will definitely see some drop-off."

Yet with no on-campus parking, Emerson students who decide to drive to school would need to pay to park in a nearby garage.

Space is limited in nearby parking garages, according to Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students, and parking passes are hard to come by.

"I am not aware of any possibility of the college renting parking spaces. As you can imagine, parking in the City is quite expensive," Duffy wrote in an e-mail interview. "There is currently a waitlist for a monthly parking pass in the Boston Common garage and at City Place."

Either way, students who currently use the MBTA to get to school will undoubtedly have higher transportation costs in the spring.

"I'll be able to deal with it," said Hebert, "but it means I'll have to cut back on little things to compensate for transportation."