NEWBURYPORT — Commuter rail passengers in Greater Newburyport will have to dig deeper in their pockets starting July 1, as fares will be jumping as much as 29 percent to help the MBTA plug an estimated $160 million deficit.
After many hours of debate, the MBTA's Board of Directors yesterday voted 4-1 to raise fares an average of 23 percent as part of its $1.8 billion fiscal 2013 budget.
As part of the plan, riders heading to Boston from Newburyport will have to shell out $2.25 more for a seat on the rail.
Currently, passengers leaving Newburyport bound for Boston's North Station pay $7.75 each way, with a monthly pass costing $250. Starting July 1, a one-way fare will cost $10, an increase of 29 percent, with monthly passes jumping $64 to $314, a 25.6 percent increase.
The MBTA board's decision caps months of rancorous debate that included several meetings in various communities, including Haverhill, Salem and Boston. Each meeting drew large crowds, with numerous people expressing intense dissatisfaction with the T's plans to raise fares while cutting back service to many vulnerable commuters. The Newburyport commuter rail line was spared cuts in service in the final plan.
Yesterday, commuter rail riders waiting for the 4:30 p.m. train in Newburyport expressed sharp disappointment over the T's decision to raise rates.
"Not very happy about it; service is so poor now, there's no way they're going to make their service better," Syd Farber of Salem said.
Heading home after his shift at Berkshire Manufactured Products in Newburyport, Bob Power of Everett said he had no choice but to find a way to fit the fare hike into his already taxed budget.
"We're at their mercy," Power said. "That's how I feel. I could stamp my feet, but are they going to listen?"
Longtime commuter rail rider John Ward of Amesbury in a separate interview said the fare hike wouldn't correspond with any added value to the rider.