MBTA’s fare hikes and service cuts will drastically reduce public transit options to BLC members and others in our community.
When the MBTA announced their two proposals to try and fill the budget deficit in the coming year there was nearly unanimous public outrage. What the MBTA is essentially proposing is to drastically reduce the foot print of public transit in the greater Boston metro area and to make riders pay more for newly limited services.
It is true that the MBTA is in a dire financial situation. Up until 2000 the State Legislature would cover the difference between what the T raised in revenue and what its operating expenses were. When that relationship ended the State House cut the T loose promising one cent out of every five cents brought in by the state sales tax…this and $3.8billion dollars in debt. This debt is directly related to the mammoth Big Dig debt incurred by the State. When the State arranged for Federal Highway dollars to fund the Big Dig it also had to agree to fund mass transit improvements as well – something fairly standard in such deals. But now the T is on the hook for that portion of the Big Dig debt and now just as the State Legislature passed the debt burden to the T, the T is unfairly passing the burden onto riders.
Both proposals on the table would drastically reduce bus service. Proposal 2 alone cuts 101 weekday bus routes, 69 Saturday routes and 50 Sunday routes. And while more bus cuts means a less severe fair hike, T riders will still be paying between 30% – 40% more in fare. In addition to the bus cuts the MBTA is proposing to run no commuter rail trains on weekends or after 10pm on weekdays. Additionally weekend service on the Mattapan trolley will be ended as will weekend service on the Green Line E line trolley.
The fare increases proposed mostly target the seniors and students. The senior TAP local bus pass will go up 83% to 95%. The student pass, which many high school students use, will increase by 100%.
Seniors and persons with disabilities who use the RIDE will also be hit hard by both proposals. For service in areas required to be covered by the ADA the price of the RIDE will go up as much as 125% and in non-ADA required areas by as much as 500%!
The fare increases will affect everyone. A monthly link pass will go from $59 to $78 for example. Many people use the commuter rail in the summer to go to the beach or other excisions. The cuts and fare hikes impacts on the most vulnerable in our communities are the most distressing.
Public transportation is a public good, which connects workers to jobs, shoppers to business and the community to each other. For low-income people, seniors and persons with disabilities and youth who cannot drive, public transportation is a way to get to school, doctor appointments, social services, community events as well as shelters and day programs. Without public transit this segment of our community faces isolation, missed appointments and reduced access to services and opportunities to participate in community events.
Programming at the BLC is grounded in the belief that just like regular medical check-ups and case management appointments are important to health and wellbeing so too is social support and community building. Our congregate meals, movie screenings, game days, yoga classes, support groups and even hair cuts and massages connect BLC members to a holistic system of services. It helps them to make friends, reduce isolation and become more active – all of which can boost the immune system and medication adherence.
By increasing fares and making drastic cuts to services the MBTA will limit vulnerable and struggling members of the BLC community’s ability to access not only medical care but also much needed fun and social time. Isolation is a big concern among those who live in shelters, single room occupancies as well as seniors and the chronically ill who live alone. The BLC works to offer a space where this isolation can be gently broken, offering people an entry into a healthy social world. Here members boost their immune system through peer support and nutritious meals. The MBTA’s proposed cuts will impact our member’s ability to access not only our services but those things services and other things like jobs and social events that the BLC’s staff and peers are helping to connect members to.
An example of where the MBTA’s proposed cuts will impact BLC members a lot is with the elimination of bus routs 275 and 276 buses. These buses service the Long Island Shelter. Many BLC members currently or have resided in the Long Island Shelter. It is there that these members have gained a footing and support to go out and find jobs in the community. With the cuts to these bus routes their ability to reach their jobs will also be eliminated.
Fare increases to the RIDE are another area that will hit BLC members hard. Many of our elderly, disabled and most ill members rely on the RIDE to get to and from our meals program and other services at the BLC.
As the largest AIDS Service Organization dedicated to serving the HIV positive population the BLC is also a beacon of support for people in the greater metro area. These members ride in the on the commuter rail sometimes from as far away as Gloucester or Framingham. For these members the isolation is particularly acute since they live in areas with few HIV/AIDS resources for positive people. The raise in Commuter Rail fares and elimination of late night service will further isolate these members.
There is no quick fix to the MBTA budget woes. But the two proposals on the table will only cover the budget deficit for approximately one fiscal year. Meaning riders and the T will be back in this same position this time next year. Considering that around the world public transit is funded as a public good by state and national governments and considering much of the MBTA’s budget problems are tied to debt incurred by the State it is time for the State Legislature and Governor Patrick to step up to the plate and solve the MBTA’s funding issues.
The MBTA is half way through their series of public hearings on the proposed cuts and fare hikes. On February 13th the T will hold a large public hearing at the Boston Public Library central branch in Copley Square. Riders from throughout the system will be coming in via train and bus to rally in front of the library before the hearing. The rally will begin at 4:30pm and the hearing will begin and 6:00pm. Please consider joining with the myriad of voices calling for No Cuts! No Hikes!
If you cannot attend a hearing you can send in a statement to the MBTA via:
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02116