By Kristina Egan
Last week, in an interview in the Boston Globe, the new GM of the MBTA Beverly Scott made it plain to the Legislature: Create sufficient funding for the MBTA or it will be forced to raise fares and cut service.
The MBTA is facing a $133 million deficit in FY 2013 – a number that just went up. The MBTA remains the most indebted transit system in the country. Last year, the MBTA prepared to raise fares by as much as 43 percent and cut lot of service. But, because of public pressure – including grassroots mobilization by Transportation for Massachusetts – the governor and legislature cobbled together a one-time fix that reduced the amount of the fare increase and preserved almost all service.
But, there can’t be “one-time” fixes every year. In the next few months, if the T does not receive the funding it needs to close the deficit, it will be left with no choice but to raise fares and cut service significantly.
People who rely solely on public transit like the working poor, seniors, and people with disabilities, are still feeling the pain from the last fare increase. Any further fare increases could price them off the MBTA. This means lower-income people will be cut off from jobs, seniors will become isolated in their homes, and those with disabilities will lose a good amount of their independence.
Service cuts would also be devastating to those who need public transit. Research done by the Dukakis Center – a Transportation for Massachusetts member – shows that people living in Boston’s urban communities often wait up to an hour longer than riders in other communities served by the T. Any further service cuts would make these waits even longer and eventually cut people off from jobs, job training, and education.
Beverly Scott has a reputation for speaking her mind – and that’s just what we need right now. By making it plain that adequate funding through new revenues can prevent fare increases and service cuts, she places the future of the MBTA, and the many people who rely on it, in the hands of lawmakers on Beacon Hill.
Now, it’s up to the Legislature to create stable and sustainable sources of revenue to sufficiently fund transit systems across the state – including the MBTA – and prevent further fare increases and service cuts that will further burden the most vulnerable among us.
If the MBTA is forced to raise fares and cut service, people will make it plain that they’ve had enough.