Pioneer Institute Pushes Back Against MBTA Fare Increases

The libertarian think tank wants reform before revenue at the MBTA.

A MBTA Charlie Card for the MBTA by Garrett Quinn

A MBTA Charlie Card for the MBTA by Garrett Quinn

In a column in today’s Boston Globe, Pioneer Institute executive director Jim Stergios pushed back against the proposed increases in fares to ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Stergios urged the body that oversees the MBTA to focus on much-needed reforms and to show passengers improvement in service before asking them to pay more.

“No progress will be made at the MBTA until management accepts that it can no longer rely on bailouts from the legislature or sizable fare increases to close budgetary holes. Only when it recognizes that it must earn increases through better service will a change in organizational culture be possible,” wrote Stergios.

The pushback from the Libertarian think tank is notable because most of the outcry against the fare increase, up until this point, has been from riders, not organizations Gov. Charlie Baker once ran. The Pioneer Institute’s concerns about increasing MBTA fares indicates that opposition to the proposed hike is not limited to lefty pro-transit organizations.

“The customer must also come first when it comes to fare increases. The T cannot ask riders to pay more unless it offers better, more reliable service in return,” wrote Stergios.

Stergios praised the changes the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) has implemented during its short life, like addressing employee absenteeism and fixing MBTA paratransit service The Ride, but concludes that the governing body still has more to do.

“Urgent action on reform and an insistence on fair treatment of MBTA customers are crucial if the FMCB is to sustain traction for its reform agenda,” he wrote. “After all, its real power lies in the support the governor has thus far enjoyed from the T’s 1.3 million daily riders.”