A plan to increase Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority fares by 20% is now off the table as officials said they will wait for an outside review of the agency's finances before asking mass transit users to pay more on buses and trains.
The agency had planned on raising fares in December or January. In June, Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi told board members that even with a $160 million yearly state allocation, the MBTA would need additional revenue. Now, Aloisi said the agency will wait for a "top-to-bottom" evaluation of the authority's finances and the MBTA system before considering a boost in fares.
David D'Alessandro, a former chief executive officer at John Hancock, will conduct the review, which is due Nov. 1.
"At [Gov. Deval Patrick's] direction, I have asked interim general manager Bill Mitchell to suspend all future public workshops on any potential fare increase or service cuts," Aloisi said in a prepared statement. "The governor has been very clear that we will not allow a fare increase of any kind to come before the board until an extensive top-to-bottom review is completed of the [MBTA] finances and operations, and we can be confident that each and every cost saving and efficiency has been exhausted - we do not think that is yet the case."
Additional revenue would help the authority's operating budget. In fiscal 2010, which began July 1, the MBTA will use 30% of its revenues to cover debt service and lease payments of $445.2 million - up by $77.5 million from the year before.
"Among its peers, the MBTA spends the most on debt service as a percentage of funds also available for operating costs," according to an April MBTA advisory board report. "These are funds the [MBTA] could spend on operating costs, its $2.7 billion maintenance backlog, system enhancements, better on-time performance of measures to reduce overcrowding."