Local commuter rail riders are reacting to rate hikes being contemplated by the MBTA – with some saying they could change their commuting habits and others saying they’ll pay the higher fares.
Under two rate hike proposals unveiled earlier this week, a monthly pass from (zone 5) to Boston on commuter rail would go up either 23 or 34 percent. In addition to the rate hike, both scenarios propose service cuts. All trains would be eliminated on weekend and after 10 p.m. on weeknights. No increase has been proposad to parking rates at commuter rail stations.
The T last raised rates in 2007. In addition to fares and other revenue sources, in fiscal 2010, Wenham paid a local assessment of $94,483 to the T while Hamilton paid $167,633.
The fares and service cuts have been proposed to balance the T's fiscal 2013 budget.
Doug D’Agata lives in Wenham and takes the train to work in the Back Bay every day. The latest rate hike proposal has him running the numbers, comparing the cost of taking the train versus renting a small office at, for example, the Cummings Center is Beverly.
The weekly pass for Hamilton-Wenham riders would go from $210 to either $259 or $282 under the two rate hike proposals.
“I could get a space for less than that near my office,” D’Agata said.
But parking in the Back Bay has one huge drawback – traffic.
“What (the MBTA) have in their favor is that it is so miserable to drive home no matter what time you leave,” D’Agata said.
In 2009, about 400 people daily rode the commuter rail from Hamilton-Wenham station. In the past eight years, daily boardings at the Hamilton-Wenham station have ranged from 266 to 496, according to the T.
For Hamilton commuter Michael Dinsmore, he will likely continue to take commuter rail regardless of a rate hike “because I don't have many other options (unless I want to buy another car).”
"My employer pays for half of my monthly train pass so a fare increase will only be half the financial impact to me,” Dinsmore said. “Nonetheless, any fare increase with the current inefficiencies and delays seems unwarranted.”
Dinsmore said he is frustrated that the T has eliminated the on-time guarantee, that refunded the fare when delays were longer than 30 minutes.
And although he walks to the station, the “semi-recent” doubling of the parking rate to $4 had added costs to some train riders.
"The recent lackluster performance combined with a fare increase, parking increase and eliminating the On-Time Guarantee really illustrates the lack of concern for customer's views," Dinsmore said.
In a poll conducted on several Patch sites in North Shore communities with commuter rail, for what they would do after a fare hike. A plurality (25 percent) of respondents said they would keep riding the trains and pay the higher rates. But others said they would instead drive to work or drive to a subway stop
About 20 hearings have been scheduled in the coming weeks to hear feedback on the proposal. If approval by T leaders, the changes would go into place on July 1.
The closest public hearing to Hamilton and Wenham is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 25 from 6-8 p.m. at Annex, 120 Washington St.