While the MBTA has ideas to solve its funding crisis, the state legislature is likely to come up with its own.
The MBTA Caucus of the state’s legislature—state representatives whose communities are served by the MBTA—met Tuesday and is actively meeting to develop its own plan as alternative to the transit authority’s offerings, state Rep. Carl Sciortino said Wednesday.
“I believe the legislature has a responsibility to look at this and address this,” Sciortino said.
Local political leaders are critical of proposals offered by the MBTA to resolve its funding crisis, and some believe there is a clear alternative—revisiting the commonwealth’s gas tax.
“MBTA fares have more than doubled since the gas tax was last raised in 1991 and now … we have to have a conversation again about the gas tax,” Sciortino said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The MBTA recently offered two scenarios to shore up a projected $161 million deficit. One proposal included significant cuts that would decimate much of the transit’s bus system, along with modest fare increases, while the other offered more significant fare hikes with fewer service cuts.
But those proposals don’t offer long-term solutions to the state’s infrastructure troubles, and they aren’t fair to riders, Sciortino said.
“A modest fare increase is reasonable, but the current proposals are not reasonable,” Sciortino said. “It’s unfair to ask T riders to pay more for less service.”
State Senator Pat Jehlen, a Democrat who represents Medford and Somerville, agrees.
“Even the relatively big increases being proposed will not provide more than a one- or two-year fix,” Jehlen said in an email to Patch Wednesday. “I, along with some of my colleagues, have been advocating for an increase in the gas tax as a reasonable and sustainable way to ensure financial solvency for the T. It is past time that we seriously address these long term funding issues. I will continue to advocate for an increase in the gas tax and more dedicated revenue to the T.”
In an interview with Somerville Patch, state Rep. Denise Provost said she would like to revisit the gas tax as an option to addressing the T’s woes. She also brought up the idea adding tolls to Boston’s central artery.
In the mean time, the MBTA is holding public meetings on the proposed fare increases and service reductions around the state, most recently at Chelsea Public Library Wednesday. They will hold local meetings in Malden on Feb. 16 and Somerville on Feb. 28.