By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – A Boston-based think-tank says the MBTA is in dire straits. “The MBTA’s finances are kind of in a calamitous state right now,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which just came out with a report on the financial state of the T. By 2023, the group predicts a $200 million to $400 million gap in the operations budget. By 2025, that jumps to $400 million, and by 2026, $500 million.

“Something has to give at that point,” said McAnneny. “Either fares have to be increased considerably, or other sources of revenue identified, or service cuts.”

READ MORE: Judge Will Not Block COVID Vaccine Mandate For Massachusetts Correction Officers

But just as the T is trying to boost ridership that fell dramatically with the pandemic, a fare hike now seems like an impossible sell. “If you think about it, it’s like almost $5 every day. If you go there and back, those $5 start adding up, ends up being a lot,” said Suffolk University student Dolly Patel.

The news comes as Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu advocates to make the T free, her opponent Annissa Essaibi George calling that idea “pie in the sky”.

READ MORE: 'I Know A Lot Of People Who Have Quit': Friday Deadline For Boston Hospital Employees To Get COVID Vaccine

On WGBH Radio, Governor Charlie Baker suggested the state has pandemic aid money available. “How those resources could be and should be deployed, will be driven to some extent on what happens to ridership, and how we in the legislature and others decide to spend the money that is available,” he said.

The T has already received hundreds of millions in federal aid money, which raises questions among regular commuters like Will Raymond. “I’m just not really sure where all the money’s going,” he said.

MORE NEWS: WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Partners With FEMA On New Emergency Studio In Hull

The MBTA sent a statement. “The MBTA has acknowledged the fiscal challenges the T will face in the coming years, and during this time, the MBTA will work with its Board, stakeholders, and federal and state partners to develop plans and take the actions necessary to meet service demands and fund operations.”

Christina Hager