Protesters Rally Against MBTA Cuts
More than 400 people turned out for the a public hearing in Boston on Monday, Feb. 13 to argue against proposals that would eliminate weekend Commuter Rail service, among other changes.
The proposed MBTA fare hikes fall disproportionally on the elderly, disabled, student and low income population, many people said at a packed-to-capacity public hearing Monday night in Boston.
Following an Occupy Boston rally at Copley Square hundreds of people—many of them college students—flowed into the Boston Public Library. They filled the 342-seat auditorium and 110-seat overflow room by 6:05 p.m.
"Some people got here at 4:30," a library worker said.
Officials began turning away at least 100 people lined up inside the foyer and promised to add more public hearings to the already lengthy list.
"If we try to raise the fare the way we are now, there won't be more money," said Back Bay resident Elliot Laffer. "There will be a failed transit system and failed economy."
He was one of more than 70 people who vocalized their opposition to, as one woman put it, "two rotten proposals" laid out by the MBTA to solve a $161 million deficit.
Both scenarios (outlined at the bottom of this article) include increased fares and service cuts, especially to suburban bus routes, the Commuter Rail, ferries and THE RIDE.
These changes would certainly be felt by people who live and work in Needham—a town with three Commuter Rail stations and an active bus route. Under Scenario 1, the price of a Zone 2 Commuter Rail ticket (the Needham Line) would jump from $4.75 per ride ($9.50 roundtrip) to $7 per ride ($14 roundtrip), an increase by nearly 50 percent.
The proposed changes also would eliminate Sunday bus service for Needham's Bus 59 and would eliminate Commuter Rail service after 10 p.m. and on weekends.
Under Scenario 2, the Commuter Rail price for Zone 2 would jump from $4.75 per ride to $6.50 per ride. The Bus 59 route would be completely eliminated, and Commuter Rail service would end at 10 p.m. on weekdays and be cut on weekends, according to an MBTA pamphlet outlining the proposals.
Losing crucial transportation
Both proposals would be detrimental to the city, many people said. Eliminated bus routes would prevent people from getting to their jobs. High school students said they would be more likely to not go to school since they wouldn't have a convenient way to get there.
"I take the T everyday," said a 16-year-old girl who attends Snowden International High School. "Without the T, I wouldn't be able to get to school and would drop out."
Low income and disabled residents, many from the deaf and blind community, used translators to speak out against the plans, lamenting cuts to the THE RIDE in particular, and calling it a step backward for people with disabilities, many of whom depend on that service to get to medical appointments.
"As for THE RIDE, I'm really shocked you expect people on fixed incomes to pay what your proposing," one woman said.
Representatives from the Boston National Historic Park and the USS Constitution Museum highlighted the importance of the ferry service that brings hundreds of thousands of tourists to the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument every year.
Commuters from Malden, Milton, Braintree, Newton, Roxbury, and other surrounding communities said they would support a reasonable hike—say $4 or $5—but a $12 ride, both ways, is "ludicrous."
"It wouldn't be a problem to increase the rate a little, but this is ridiculous what you're doing," a man from Salem said.
Finding more money
Others, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino in his opening speech, called for increased revenue.
"For too long, they've tried a Band-Aid approach," he said about the MBTA. "You can't do reconstructive surgery with a first-aid kit."
A few people suggested raising the gas tax—which hasn't increased in 21 years—and called on legislators to increase funding and remove existing debt.
"There's $2 billion of debt that comes from the Big Dig," said David, a Jamaica Plain resident. "There's no reason the Big Dig debt should be on the MBTA books at all."
Another man pointed to major, tax-exempt corporations in the city, saying the revenue is there, it's just a matter of where it's coming from.
"You're going after the poor," he said. "They’re already poor. You can't get blood out of a stone."
Candice, a woman from Malden, said the T should cut off all ongoing extension projects to pay off its debt—the same way someone in the working class would pay off their debts before buying a fancy new car—and added the Mass State Lottery should dedicate a portion of its sales to the MBTA.
"This is a reflection of management," she said. "Something could have been done long ago, but nothing was."
This was the first of many public hearings the MBTA is holding throughout the Boston region over the next two months. Comments will be considered when deciding the final proposal.
You can also contact the MBTA directly by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 617-222-5200.
The T has broken their proposed changes down into two "scenarios," one that involves a larger fare increase and fewer service cuts, and the other that involves a smaller increase and greater service cuts, mostly to suburban bus routes. Both options include service reductions or eliminations to buses, the Commuter Rail, light rail, ferry and THE RIDE service area.
- Under Scenario 1, a subway ride would go from the current $1.70 Charlie Card fare to $2.40 (about a 41 percent increase). A bus Charlie Card fare would increase from $1.25 to $1.75 (a 40 percent hike). Parking rates would also increase by 28 percent.
- Scenario 2 would raise fares for a subway Charlie Card from $1.70 to $2.25 (about a 32 percent increase) and a bus Charlie Card from $1.25 to $1.50 (a 20 percent increase). Parking rates would also increase by 20 percent.