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Rate hikes not the solution, T riders say

Free Rides on MBTA

By Harry Kane
On March 1, 2012

Perhaps you've seen it: The turnstile at a T stop slides open for a departing passenger and someone quickly slips onto the platform, avoiding the fare. 

At several of the T stations it's also all too easy to follow a non-suspecting person through the turnstiles without purchasing a ticket.

Maria F. Oliveira, 54, a Sky's Enterprises vendor at the Government Station in Boston, says stopping such actions would save the MBTA from having to implement the measures it's proposing.

 "If they made everyone pay who gets in on the T, they wouldn't need to raise the price," said Oliveira, an immigrant from Portugal. 

 "There's no one up there," she added, pointing her fingers towards the front entrance of the station. "One in 5 people get in free."

Recently the Massachusetts Department of Transportation unveiled two scenarios in offering commuters proposals to eliminate the $161 million deficit. The most extreme scenario calls for a 43 percent rate hike on the T and the slashing of multiple bus lines across the city.

This possible July 1 fare increase and service reduction has commuters outraged. 

"That's horrendous and unconscionable," said Jason Fitzgerald, 50, who teaches English but is on disability from a knee injury. "There are people making hundreds of thousands of dollars, riding in limousines and we're down here, and they want to raise the prices?

"The powers at be are heartless, they have no feelings," he added. "Everybody wants to take take take and the common man has no recourse."

Such passion has recently rekindled the Occupy Boston movement, which has joined public protests at a series of hearings on the proposed fare hikes.

But not everybody is upset.

George Leh, 73, a blind musician, who sings some big band and contemporary songs to commuters as they enter and exit the green line train in Government Center, said he isn't concerned about the rate increases because he gets in by waving his pass.

"I'm a crotchety old man," he said. "But I try to keep as active as I can." He sets up by Dunkin' Donuts with his tin can and sings.

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