BOSTON — The MBTA board Wednesday approved an average 23 percent fare hike for riders along with modest cuts in services, but held to its updated plan outlined last week that spared any cuts to weekend commuter rail service to and from Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester.
In approving the spending reduction plan, board members acknowledged that the measures might be nothing more than a one-year patch for the chronically underfunded transit system.
The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority voted 4-1 for the measures, prompting shouts of "shame on you" from dozens of riders who attended the meeting.
The vote capped months of often fierce debate over how to close a projected $159 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
"We cannot afford the system we have today, and the system we want is beyond our reach," said acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis.
Davis said the T would face another $100 million deficit in the next fiscal year unless the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick's administration can agree on a long-term fix for the entire state transportation system.
The board voted to raise bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50 and subway fares from $1.70 to $2 for passengers with CharlieCards. Fares for commuter rail and Boston Harbor ferries also will increase. Students and senior citizens will enjoy less generous discounts and most users of The Ride, a service for disabled riders, will see their fares double.
The fare hikes are the first in five years.
Several bus routes will be eliminated along with a handful of weekend commuter rail runs. But the service cuts are far less drastic than those presented earlier that would have ended ferry service, halted all weekend and late-night commuter rail, and axed many more existing buses.
While Cape Ann riders had also expressed concern in recent weeks about the fare increases, much of the local focus had been on the MBTA's initial threat to eliminate all weekend and some late-night rail service. And several groups — including the Gloucester City Council, both Manchester and Rockport selectmen, and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce — had submitted written pleas to keep the rail service in place, citing the potential harm to local economies.
Passengers who spoke during Wednesday's public comment period in Boston before the vote made final appealed to board members to reject the hikes and service cuts altogether, saying they would cause the most harm to low-income and disabled people.
"You're still not listening. It's that simple," said Jonathan Gale of the Disability Law Center. "We are absolutely opposed to any increases at all that affect seniors, students and people who are disabled."
Rosa Matias of Chelsea, who addressed the board in Spanish through a translator, said she was angry at Patrick for not doing more to help MBTA passengers.
"Tell the governor this is killing us," she said. "We were supporting him in the last election ... and now he is turning his back on us."
Applause and chants of "just vote no" followed many of the speakers. Members of Occupy MBTA, an offshoot of the Occupy Boston movement, marched to the State House after the vote to continue a protest.
The T avoided deeper cuts by tapping several one-time sources of revenue, including snow removal funds that went unused during the mild winter and a $51 million transfer from the state's Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund, which promotes environmentally friendly transportation projects.
The transfer will need approval from the Legislature. But should lawmakers balk at a transfer, officials say, additional service reductions will be inevitable.
Ferdinand Alvaro Jr., the lone board member to vote against the plan, said he appreciated that the T's staff put together a plan that sought to minimize the impact of service cuts. But he said he could not in good conscience support a budget that was balanced at the expense of the most vulnerable people in society.
"For those of you who have said repeatedly that we don't care, we do care," Alvaro told the audience.