The T is in trouble with a capital T

LOOKING AT the MBTA’s latest proposals to raise fares and severely cut service, I am reminded of the old joke about the complaining restaurant patron: “The food is terrible — and such small portions!’’ It’s an insult that fares must be raised, though the T’s $161 million deficit can’t be denied, and fares have held steady since 2007.

But the injury — that the increased fares will be accompanied by service cuts, including possible elimination of many bus routes, all the commuter ferries, and weekend commuter rail service — is something long-suffering transit riders shouldn’t have to bear.

And here is another punch line: The T is proposing cuts in service at a time when ridership is reaching record highs. “There’s not a corporation in America that wouldn’t love the problem we have, which is people want more of us,’’ said secretary of transportation Richard Davey.

The problem is that the MBTA gets only 27 percent of its revenue from fares. The rest comes from parking and advertising fees, contributions from communities in the MBTA service area, and a state subsidy tied to a percentage of the sales tax. That’s not nearly enough to cover the T’s regular expenses, rising fuel and employee health care costs, and interest on an $8.6 billion debt.

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