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Students Want Fare Hikes Derailed

 Dana Hildner, Staff Writer

On Jan. 3, the Boston-area public transportation system released two scenarios to the public. One includes fare hikes and severely decreased service; the other, a small fare hike and more drastic cuts.

Either scenario could be an issue for students who use the MBTA —the train, subway, trolley and bus system in much of eastern Massachusetts — to get to and from school, work or an internship.

“I took the T coming home from my internship in Boston and it was a nightmare,” said Merrimack senior Maureen Rooney. “Normally I take the commuter rail, which is pure luxury compared to the T, to Andover.” (The commuter rail is formally part of the T system, though many riders often think of the T as the subway and bus routes.)

“I’m against the T because of all the problems that come from it,” Rooney said. “There are always delays, and you can never sit. I understand why it’s so popular, because for $2 you can travel to anywhere you want instead of paying the $12.50 fare for the commuter rail.”

However, according to the T’s first scenario, fares would rise by 43 percent and about 60 bus routes would be cut. Under the second scenario, fares would jump 35 percent and 200 routes would be cut, along with weekend service on some train lines. Both plans would cut weekend and late-night service on the commuter rail.

Merrimack students use commuter rail stations in Andover and Lawrence to get to Boston’s North Station, at the TD Garden.

The T has not raised fares since 2007. It more than $5 billion in debt, a good portion from the highway construction project through Boston called the Big Dig; the state legislature forced the T to cover some of the cost.

Many students said they felt the cuts would not affect them, but junior Emily Morgan, the leading Merrimack activist in “Students Against T Cuts,” said: “Boston is the center of business and medicine for Massachusetts, and it is really important that we protect our public access to Boston. Not only do we use Boston for touring and fun experiences, but also for career opportunities and as transportation home.”

“By cutting off Merrimack’s public access to North Station, the MBTA would also be limiting students’ abilities to travel by use of the subway system, other commuter rails, buses and the airport,” Morgan said. “Given freshman students cannot have cars on campus, this might cause them to feel disconnected with the city, or even their home.”

Those directly affected or with strong feelings about the issue can long onto http://studentsagainst Tcuts.org or find the Students Against T Cuts page on Facebook.

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