As the 112 bus rumbled up to the east side of the Market Basket earlier this week, there weren’t a ton of people getting off the bus, and there wasn’t a long line of people getting on the bus either.
There were women getting on with their bags of groceries, and elderly people getting off with grocery lists in hand. Others were headed to the clinic across the street and another was going to the bank.
It wasn’t a packed bus, but it was a steady stream. Those who ride the bus frequently said the 112 doesn’t have a large ridership, but it’s a group of people who are completely dependent upon the route.
“I live on the Hill and if they cut this bus, it’s going to be a major problem,” said Helena McMullen of Admiral’s Hill. “There are a lot of seniors who gave up their car and use this bus and they can’t drive. The bus is the only way for them to get down the Hill. Plus, you have the development on Central Avenue and all of the people coming to the store and the laundromat. You have to also consider the people from the Soldier’s Home too. This is the only way for them.”
Said Lance Kelly, “I waited for the bus for more than a half hour on Chelsea Street just now and it never came. I used the schedule and everything. It was supposed to be there and it wasn’t. I ended up walking here. Maybe if it was reliable more people would ride it.”
Amidst a lot of publicity, last week the MBTA unveiled a huge plan full of scenarios that include raising fares and cutting services. The T is facing a $161 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, and has indicated that it has a limited means of cutting that gap in funding. After careful study and several public meetings, the T released a study proposing two scenarios for cost cutting.
The goal of the new plan is to strengthen the overall inner, urban core – such as in Chelsea – so many of the city’s busiest bus routes, like the 111 and 117 routes, went untouched in the cutting process. However, some very important routes in less travelled areas of Chelsea did find their way upon the chopping block.
While the first scenario deals more with fare increases system wide, the second scenario contains wholesale cuts to entire bus routes – including the 112 bus.
“The primary methods that the MBTA has at its disposal for reducing deficits are raising fares to increase revenue and reducing service to decrease operating expenses, though the MBTA can raise revenue through other, less significant means,” read the report released last week. “The MBTA recently explored the impacts of various combinations of potential fare-increase and service-reduction levels and decided to model two scenarios with different combinations. The amount of the fare increase and service reductions proposed by the MBTA for each scenario was determined by the objective of closing the projected FY 2013 budget deficit.”
Scenario 1 in the report doesn’t touch any Chelsea bus routes, but it would curtail the commuter rail in Chelsea. Commuter Rail service would cease after 10 p.m. and would be halted on Saturdays and Sundays.
The meat of the first scenario would come in fare increases – the first increases since 2007 when the Charlie Card was introduced.
For those with a Charlie Card, the bus fare under Scenario 1 would increase from $1.25 to $1.75. Subway fare would go from $1.70 to $2.40. Astonishingly, senior citizen rates for the bus would increase from $0.40 to $1.10 – a 175 percent increase.
The traditional “T Pass” would increase under that scenario from $59 to $80.
In the second proposal, Scenario 2, the plan focuses on a combination of fare increases and deep service cuts.
For example, the traditional T Pass would only increase to $78 and the subway fare would go up to only $2.25.
However, that scenario also eliminates the 112 bus route.
The 112 route goes from Wellington Station in Medford to the Mystic Mall and to several other locations throughout Chelsea. It is the only bus that goes up Admiral’s Hill.
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein said that she has looked through both scenarios and has asked to meet in the coming weeks with T Director Richard Davey.
She said in her district, which includes Revere and Chelsea, most people are talking about adding service, not cutting it.
“It’s a hard situation because when I go to meetings in the district, all I hear about is adding services to the T and not lessening bus routes,” she said. “In Chelsea and Revere, many people depend upon public transportation. It’s part of what’s attractive for people to move here. Any interruption in service is definitely something I’m concerned about.”
At the same time, though, she said there would probably have to be some sort of compromise in the discussion.
“Not to look into my magic ball, but I think there will be a change in the end,” she said. “It’s about finding a balance. If we keep things as they are, it’s just going to cost more money and they have a huge deficit. We don’t want to hurt working class people who use the T every day, but we are probably going to have to find some sort of balance.”
Concluded the T report, “It is based on these data—and on a vision of what shape the MBTA will take in the future—that a course of action must be chosen.”