Robbed of riders due to the pandemic and facing a budgetary crisis, the MBTA has spent weeks mapping out strategic service reductions to bring spending in line with diminished revenue.
Ahead of a T Board meeting on Monday, transportation activists are urging the T to slam the brakes on cuts.
A coalition of 30 groups plans to ask the T to wait until the 2020 legislative session concludes before making decisions about cuts, to take fare hikes off the table and cut fares for low-income riders, and to accelerate investments in bus and rail electrification and expansion efforts.
The coalition also wants Beacon Hill to intervene and shore up T revenues. Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, called on the Senate to reconsider a House package of tax and fee increases, including a hike in the gas tax. Senate Democrats in July tabled the bill the House passed in March, saying they preferred to focus on a multi-year, $18 billion transportation borrowing bill, which has be en stalled for months.
“The State Legislature must act to prevent service cuts,” Dempsey said. “The need to provide help to transit systems statewide has only increased then. We need the Senate to step up to provide operating budget resources for the MBTA.”
While the decisions on taxes and borrowing are up to the Legislature, coalition members plan to make their case to the MBTA Board during a meeting at noon.
“Low income communities and communities of color continue to be impacted by COVID19 and its repercussions. Our folks are facing displacement, unemployment, public health disparities and now an impending public transit crisis,” said Maria Belén Power, associate executive director at GreenRoots. “We demand the MBTA preserve buses, trains and commuter rail, and not rush into any service cut decision that could have long lasting consequences.”
T officials have said they are focusing on cuts to services that are receiving the least use, while preserving services that have higher ridership.
(Copyright (c) 2020 State House News Service.