Transportation Secretary Richard Davey warned that closing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s budget deficit next year without fare hikes or service cuts would be “very difficult.”

While public transportation has received financial boosts from three rounds of fare hikes over the past decade and from a 25% increase in the sales tax in 2009, officials estimate the MBTA will face a $160 million budget deficit in fiscal 2013.

The MBTA has not raised fares in the past five years — the longest stretch for any major urban public transit system. Riders, however, only narrowly escaped an increase in 2009 after Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration backed off plans to hike fares by 19%, which would have raised an additional $69 million to help the MBTA reduce its debt.

The commuter lobbying organization T Riders Group is pressing Davey and other officials to curb nonessential projects and to consider ways to force nonprofits that benefit from their proximity to public transit hubs to contribute to the system.

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