Editorial: More MBTA scenarios, please

The MBTA has two scenarios to meet a $160 million budget shortfall. Both involve a combination of fare increases and service cuts.

Neither is acceptable. State policy makers and MBTA officials need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan.

Both of the current T scenarios, one of which is expected to be chosen in early April, include the elimination of many bus routes, all ferries, and commuter rail service after 10 p.m. and on weekends.

One proposal would raise fares an average of 43 percent across all modes of transportation, bringing subway rides to $2.25, lowering a subsidy for elderly riders, and sending fares for riders with disabilities soaring.

Another proposal would limit fare increases to 34 percent but also impose service cuts that agency officials acknowledge could leave some riders without a viable way to get to work or doctor appointments.

Each scenario will encourage more people to use their cars, worsening Greater Boston’s notorious traffic congestion and hurting the environment.

The proposals also place a financial burden on commuters, particularly those who depend on public transportation to get around — including the low-income, the elderly and disabled, and students — and makes commuting more unpredictable and unreliable.

Both scenarios will hurt Boston’s status as an aspiring world-class city, our economy and tourism, and will result in a decrease of riders at a time when mass transit use is reaching record levels.

Our public policy should be about encouraging people to get out of their cars by making public transit as cheap and as convenient as possible. These T fare hikes and service cuts will have the opposite effect.

Our state policy makers have done what they can to keep people in their cars, writing blank checks for Big Dig-style projects, keeping highways toll-free and well-maintained, and keeping the gas tax at the same rate for more than 20 years. A 2007 report found that the state underfunds its transportation system. It’s high time for Beacon Hill to figure out how to pay for adequate mass transit.

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