HSPH researchers assess effect on health of proposed fare hikes in Boston area

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Fare increases and service cuts originally proposed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to counter a projected $161 million deficit in 2012 would likely have costly consequences and threaten the health of Boston area residents, according to a health impact assessment released March 13, 2012 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) of Massachusetts. The report was conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

On April 4, 2012 the MBTA board approved plans, effective July 1, to hold average fare increases at 23% for at least a year, to institute modest service cuts, and tap other one-time funding sources to address the budget deficit for one year. The increase was significantly less than the MBTA’s original proposal earlier this year, which had called for raising most fares an average of 35% to 43% while making deep service cuts.

The talk of possible significant fare hikes and service cuts captured the interest of researchers at HSPH and BUSPH. HSPH students Peter James, SD’12, and Mariana Arcaya, SD’13, co-authors of the report, described the findings of their two-month health impact assessment to students, faculty, and guests at a March 26 talk in the FXB building. The talk was sponsored by HealthRoots, an HSPH student group that encourages collaboration and student engagement on public health issues. Jonathan Buonocore, HSPH doctoral student in environmental health, and Jonathan Levy, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH and professor of environmental health at BUSPH, also were co-authors.