BOSTON (AP) — The MBTA has hired nearly 900 new employees in the past two years even as the transit agency struggles with deep debt that has prompted proposals for fare hikes.

Police had to be called to a public meeting attended by about 400 people on Monday night protesting the proposed hikes and service cuts agency officials say are necessary to close a $161 million budget gap.

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WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports

The Boston Herald reports that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has made 871 new hires in the past two years while 631 T employees made more than $100,000 last year.

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A T spokesman justified the hires saying they were necessary to maintain safety and service at a time of record ridership.

The spokesman says the T employs nearly 6,000 people, an 11-year low.

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.