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Commuters Tell MBTA Don't Increase Fares and Cut Service [Video]

More than 100 people, half of whom spoke, told the MBTA's general manager cuts in commuter rail service and increase in the RIDE fares are unacceptable at a hearing in Framingham Tuesday night.

MetroWest residents flocked to the Memorial Building in Framingham Tuesday night to ask MBTA executives to think twice before reducing services, as proposed.

, to eliminate $169 million in debt, commuter rail service on the Boston-Framingham-Worcester line would end at 10 p.m. on weekdays and be eliminated on weekends.

Along with the service reduction, fare increases to the commuter rail are proposed between 30 to 40 percent.

"People who need a free ride or cheap ride are being charged more than they can afford," said A. Richard Miller of Natick.

Several members of the Legislature were present and or spoke including state Sen. Karen Spilka and Reps. Chris Walsh, Tom Sannicandro, Carolyn Dykema and Tom Conroy. Selectmen from both Natick and Ashland spoke, too.

Spilka said the MetroWest region and residents "depend on the commuter rail system access for affordable quality transportation." She told the MBTA cuts in commuter rail service would "isolate our area."

"The commonwealth should be encouraging the transit service, including the accessibility to Natick Center to promote economic development ... not jeopardizing it," Josh Ostroff said. Ostroff added Natick Selectmen voted 5-0 to oppose the increases.

Framingham resident Kathy Maxwell took Tuesday night off from work so she could tell MBTA executives the importance of the commuter rail after 10 p.m.

For the last three years, the Framingham resident has commuted to Boston for her 2-10 shift. She takes the 10:26 p.m. train out of Back Bay home.

"I'm hanging onto my house by my fingernails," said Maxwell, who added she hasn't seen a raise since she took the Boston job. "This would be a big hardship."

MBTA must submit a balanced budget to its directors in March, who will take a vote in April. Any cuts in services or increases in fares would take place on July 1.

According to MetroWest residents, the biggest issues are the reduction in service in the commuter rail and the steep increase in price in the RIDE service and the commuter rail.

Increasing fares and reducing the amount of time we can into downtown is ridiculous," said Cornelia Dillon of Framingham. "I think one and two (scenarios) both stink."

Framingham resident Barbara McCurdy, who has has taken the commuter rail for the last 15 years and used public transportation for more than 20, suggested the MBTA keep one train after 10 p.m. to pickup fans at Fenway. Recognizing weekend service is already less than weekday service, she suggested the MBTA keep some trains on the weekend as opposed to complete elimination.

In regard to the RIDE, one scenario increases the fare from $2 to $4.50 or $12, while the other scenario would raise it to $3 or $5, based on which zone a rider lives in.

"This makes no sense. Ridership is increasing but the service provided is decreasing," said John Stasik of Framingham.

The governor and the state Legislature were mentioned often Tuesday night as important players in how to fix the MBTA's debt problem.

MBTA general manager Jon Davies said the MBTA has $5.2 billion in principal debt and that the MBTA is the highest leveraged of all the country's transit authorities.

"Thirty cents of every $1 we collect goes to pay the principal," he told the audience.

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