hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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January 11, 2012

Haverhill riders deserve say on T fare hike

The prospect of fare increases and service cuts can't please those who rely on the MBTA for commuting to work or getting around the North of Boston region.

But something has to be done to address the transit agency's budget gap, which officials say could reach $161 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and doesn't include funding for any capital improvements or even major maintenance issues.

In its effort to present information to the public on proposed fare and service changes, the MBTA cannot ignore riders in the Merrimack Valley who depend on the commuter rail service to get to their jobs in the Greater Boston area.

We suggest all taxpayers, not just regular riders, familiarize themselves with the T's financial situation. The transportation authority has scheduled a number of public hearings on the fare and service changes, but none in our local area. According to the T's website, the closest hearings are in Lowell on Feb. 6 and in Malden on Feb. 16.

We suggest that the MBTA owes riders on the Haverhill commuter line an opportunity to participate in a public forum on the proposed changes. For now, information is available on the website (www.mbta.com).

We like the fact that people both within and outside the state transportation bureaucracy are insisting the agency keep up the pressure to reduce costs. For decades, the MBTA was known as one of the most bloated and profligate transit systems in the country, and while there have been significant efforts to curb those practices in recent years, more can and must be done on the spending front.

"We've gotten the low-hanging fruit, so now we have to take some pain," John Jenkins, chairman of the Department of Transportation's board of directors, noted last week. "If the public's going to take some pain with fare increases, we have to take some pain with efficiencies too."

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