State Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), and Representative Garrett Bradley (D- Hingham) have organized a public hearing in February for South Shore residents to voice concerns over the MBTA’s proposed fare hike and plans to cut the Hingham to Boston Ferry Service.
Hedlund and Bradley have scheduled the meeting at the Hingham Town Hall’s Central Meeting Room on February 8 at 6 p.m. for residents to express their concerns to the MBTA.
“I have heard from many constituents who are frustrated over the MBTA proposal to reduce and eliminate services, especially the commuter boat,” said Hedlund in a statement. “I am hopeful that the MBTA will listen to the concerns of these residents with an open mind and respond to them appropriately as they did most recently in 2009.”
The MBTA will also hold another 19 meetings around the state to hear from residents concerning these proposals.
On Tuesday, the MBTA has proposed two plans in an attempt to close a projected $161 million dollar budget gap in fiscal year 2013. Under both scenarios, the MBTA commuter ferries would be eliminated and under one of the plans, bus routes would be cut. The MBTA also proposed to raise fares by 35-43 percent.
“The Hingham and Hull commuter boats are a critically important mode of transportation for my district,” Bradley said in a statement. “To eliminate this service would severely impact individuals who commute and do business in the area. If the ferry boat service were to be eliminated, along with bus service to Hingham, residents of Hull would have no direct access to public transportation. I disagree with this approach and will work with legislative leaders and state officials to discuss alternatives that address the MBTA financial situation.”
These proposed cuts and price increases come after 2011 marked the T’s busiest year since 2008, averaging more than 1.3 million per weekday in November, the third straight month above 1.3 million riders.
“It is clear that the MBTA has made gains in ridership over the last two years, and taken the first steps towards reducing inefficiencies,” said Hedlund. “We should be expanding the reduction of inefficiencies instead of balancing the T’s budget on the backs of the riders and eliminating the very services that have made ridership gains over the last two years.”
One of the MBTA’s scenarios calls for the elimination of a larger number of bus routes generating savings that would enable the smaller fare increase. This scenario would increase CharlieCard bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50, while rapid transit CharlieCards would rise from $1.70 to $2.25. Parking fees would also increase 20 percent.
Under the other scenario, the cost of bus CharlieCards would rise from $1.25 to $1.75, while rapid transit CharlieCards would rise from $1.70 to $2.40. Parking would also increase 28 percent.
The MBTA’s proposed plans have sparked displeasure from Hingham Town Officials who were surprised by the news on Tuesday.
“My reaction was, ‘I was upset’,” said Selectman Laura Burns.
South Shore Chamber president Peter Forman was also not pleased by the announcement and has called on the MBTA to back away from a proposal to eliminate commuter boats between the South Shore and Boston.
In a letter to MBTA general manager Jonathan Davis on Wednesday, the Chamber president said dropping ferry service “would severely undermine a regional development strategy pattern on the South Shore that has been actively pursued by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and strongly supported by the Patrick administration.”
“The economic future of the South Shore depends on its transportation network,” Forman said. “The major development projects underway or on the drawing board are all designed around a mix of transportation alternatives. Water transportation is a vital part of that mix.”
Commuter boats provide transportation from Quincy, Hingham and Hull to downtown Boston and Logan Airport. The ferries operate under contract to the MBTA and make 18 round trips every weekday from Hingham to Boston.
Following the completion of the public hearings in February, a final plan will presented to the MassDOT board of directors in March, followed by a board vote in April, under a timeline suggested by MBTA officials.