To Fix Transportation, Don’t Cut Revenue and Penalize Riders

May 20, 2015

Today, the Governor’s team held a press conference to rally people behind his transportation plan.  While Transportation for Massachusetts applauds the attention Governor Baker has paid to the MBTA, and supports immediate implementation of many of the Administration’s proposed reforms to make the MBTA more efficient and customer-focused, we are concerned that three of the proposed fixes in the Governor’s legislation will actually hurt the MBTA, MBTA riders, and transportation throughout the state. 

We agree with the Special Panel to Review the MBTA in its assessment that fixing the T will take both reform and new revenue. The legislation filed by the administration makes progress on reform, but it actually reduces revenue.

The Governor’s proposal takes several steps back by undoing important parts of the transportation law passed in 2013.  The Governor’s proposal:

  1. Reduces statewide transportation funding by $581 million over six years.  In 2013, legislators increased funds for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, which invests in roads, bridges, regional buses, the MBTA, sidewalks, and bike lanes. The MBTA and the state’s transportation system cannot maintain their current level of service, nevermind improve it, while simultaneously facing a significant cut in funding.
  2. Limits funding to the MBTA, effectively cutting $220 million over the next two years that the legislature promised to the MBTA to fund operations. Without this assistance, the MBTA will be unable to close its budget gap without increasing fares and cutting service.
  3. Removes a provision ensuring predictable increases in fares and eliminates free or discounted transfers. The 2013 Act created affordable, regular fare increases by capping increases to 5% every two years.  In the years leading up to that legislation, riders faced steep, unpredictable fare increases. 

Transportation for Massachusetts is deeply concerned that, if enacted, these parts of the administration’s bill will force the MBTA to balance its books by raising fares and cutting service. These changes would roll back important progress made just two years ago.

Just in the last few days, several hundred MBTA users have contacted their legislators to express concerns about the Governor’s proposals to cut funding and raise fares. And earlier this year over 12,000 residents from over 300 of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns signed a petition to support adequate funding for safe and reliable transportation.

So far, the debate about the MBTA has focused on reform and governance. Important as reforms are, we will not achieve world class public transit by cutting revenues, nor by asking riders to shoulder steep and unpredictable hikes. We urge the legislature to keep us moving forward on both reform and revenue, and reject the portions of the Governor’s proposal that will move the MBTA and the Commonwealth backwards.

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