‘T’ Officials Tell Winthrop Riders: Start Walking Bus Route Could Be Eliminated as MBTA Seeks to Cut Deficit

Thursday, January 12, 2012
By Seth Daniel

There aren’t many bus stops in Winthrop as it is right now, but if one MBTA service cut scenario plays out, there won’t be any at all.

The private carrier Winthrop bus – funded by the T and operated by Paul Revere Transportation – is the only means of public transportation in the Town.

People use it to get to the Blue Line, mostly.

But they also use it to get to Winthrop Center from other parts of town.

Kids use it to get to and from school, and the elderly depend on it as their only means of getting out of the house.

Now, once again, it’s on the chopping block to be cut from the MBTA’s program under a voluminous study conducted by the T.

“Cutting our bus would be more than devastating,” said Eric Gaynor, executive director of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce. “I really just can’t imagine it. It’s really all we have in terms of public transportation. So many people use it to get to Orient Heights, but a lot of people also depend on it to come shopping in the Center. There are a lot of people without cars and the bus is how they get around. What would be the other option? I guess all those people would have to walk. I really hope we can make a case with the T to keep our bus operating because losing it would be unthinkable.”

Amidst a lot of publicity, last week the MBTA unveiled a huge plan full of scenarios that include raising fares and cutting services. The T is facing a $161 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, and has indicated that it has a limited means of cutting that gap in funding. After careful study and several public meetings, the T released a study proposing two scenarios for cost cutting.

The goal of the new plan is to strengthen the overall inner, urban core so many of the busiest bus routes went untouched in the cutting process. However, private carrier buses in Winthrop, Medford, Canton and Hull  came under the microscope for elimination.

While the first scenario deals more with fare increases system wide, the second scenario contains smaller fare increases and wholesale cuts to entire bus routes.

“The primary methods that the MBTA has at its disposal for reducing deficits are raising fares to increase revenue and reducing service to decrease operating expenses, though the MBTA can raise revenue through other, less significant means,” read the report released last week. “The MBTA recently explored the impacts of various combinations of potential fare-increase and service-reduction levels and decided to model two scenarios with different combinations. The amount of the fare increase and service reductions proposed by the MBTA for each scenario was determined by the objective of closing the projected FY 2013 budget deficit.”

In Scenario 1, the meat of that proposal would come in fare increases – the first increases since 2007 when the Charlie Card was introduced.

For those with a Charlie Card, the bus fare under Scenario 1 would increase from $1.25 to $1.75. Subway fare would go from $1.70 to $2.40. Astonishingly, senior citizen rates for the regular bus routes would increase from $0.40 to $1.10 – a 175 percent increase.

The traditional “T Pass” would increase under that scenario from $59 to $80.

In the second proposal, Scenario 2, the plan focuses on a combination of fare increases and deep service cuts.

For example, the traditional T Pass would only increase to $78 and the subway fare would go up to only $2.25.

Additionally, the T is proposing to increase parking rates at its surface parking lots at Orient Heights and Suffolk Downs, going from $5 to either $7 or $6.50.

Despite the threat of losing the bus, House Speaker Bob DeLeo has already taken action to protect the service, and his office said it is a top priority for him in the T discussion.

“The Speaker is very concerned about this and is going to look into what can be done,” said spokesman Seth Gitell, noting that DeLeo has been in meetings with T Director Richard Davey.

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