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Derailed By Debt: Unhealthy Choices The MBTA Will Be Forced To Make In FY2009 - FY2013

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Publication Date: October 2007

Publisher(s): Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group Education Fund

Author(s): Eric Bourassa; John Larson

Funder(s): RAND Corporation

Funder(s): RAND Corporation

Topic: Transportation (Urban transport)

Keywords: Ridership; Transit; Debt

Coverage: Massachusetts

Abstract:

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
(MBTA) faces an uncertain financial future over the next five years. With debt service payments increasing, along with other costs, the MBTA will face sizeable budget gaps forcing the Authority to choose among unhealthy options to close these structural deficits. These options primarily include: further dramatic fare increases, service reductions, or more borrowing.

Unfortunately, all of these options would negatively impact the MBTA and its riders by making the system less affordable, less available, less frequent, or more indebted in the long run. The result will be a decrease in ridership.

Decreasing transit ridership will adversely impact the Greater Boston region as a whole. Instead of using transit, many commuters will drive automobiles. The result will be worse traffic congestion and air pollution, greater stress on road and bridge infrastructure, as well as greater oil dependence.

The primary cause of the MBTA's financial crisis is a huge debt that grows each year of this projection, combined with slow growth in the state's sales tax, which a portion of funds the MBTA.