At a time when the Commonwealth should be promoting public transportation, several Regional Transit Authorities that provide bus service outside of the MBTA system are actively planning service cuts and significant fare hikes to balance their budgets, in response to Governor Baker’s recommendation to level-fund state operating assistance to RTAs. While state assistance is only one of several revenue sources, four years of level funding at a time of increasing costs is causing harm to riders and communities across the state.
T4MA urges a solution that prevents reductions in service and dramatic fare increases. The agencies facing some of the most immediate risks include the Worcester RTA and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, two agencies that combined provide more than 17.5 million rides each year, with central operations in Massachusetts’ second and third largest cities.
T4MA has testified in support of an increase from the Governor's recommended level funding of $80.4 million to $88 million, which is the advice of the Legislature's RTA Caucus (Representatives and Senators serving communities with RTA service) and of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Transit Authorities (MARTA). This level of funding is intended to keep up with cost increases and inflation since the annual funding level of $80 million was made possible through the 2013 Transportation Finance Act.
As part of that 2013 law, every RTA was required to provide a comprehensive service assessment, and all have done so. These efforts are part of a worthy goal to provide public transportation throughout the state, which is essential for many residents; one in seven households do not own a car.
And as we seek to promote economic opportunity, but also make a good faith effort to reduce pollution from the transportation sector, it is indisputable that we should be increasing our investments in quality public transit, not be reducing service.
We fully recognize the ongoing need for accountability, reform and innovation in transportation, and we believe that RTAs, the communities they serve, and the Commonwealth must be partners in a durable solution. The goal is not to preserve the status quo, but to best serve the public by providing good transit options.
One way to express support for responsible funding of RTAs is through our statewide petition.
For the legislature, the next opportunity to commit to a funding level of RTAs that will not exacerbate service cuts or unaffordable fare increases is in the upcoming House Ways and Means Committee budget recommendation, which is due April 11 and will be followed by an opportunity for State Representatives to offer amendments. The State Senate will then follow with its own recommendation in May, and the two branches will reconcile their budget before a final vote and submission to the Governor for his signature (or veto of specific items). Then the branches have the opportunity to override any vetoes.