By Senator Sal DiDomenico
The MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board recently released their “Forging Ahead Initiative,” a series of ill-conceived cuts to MBTA services that will have devastating (and likely long-lasting) impacts on those who rely on public transit to get to and from work. Our district in particular will be uniquely impacted by these cuts, as we are one of the most transit-dependent in the state. Not to mention, we have been some of the hardest hit by COVID, while also having one of the highest percentages of essential workers.
According to the MBTA’s Forging Ahead website, some of the main “proposals” impacting our community include:
•Subway: 20% Frequency Reductions Across All Lines; Service Stops after Midnight.
•Bus: 5% Frequency Reduction on Essential Routes & 20% Reduction on Non-Essential Routes; Service Stops after Midnight.
•Commuter Rail: Service Stops after 9 PM; Weekend Service Ends (as early as Jan. 2021); Decreased Peak and Midday Service.
•Ferry: All Ferry Service Will End; Charlestown Ferry Diverted to the Rt.93 Bus.
•The Ride: Some trips may become premium and be able to be booked 40 minutes in advance, instead of the current 30 minutes.
Without question, components of the MBTA’s plan, such as stopping bus service at midnight, will disproportionately impact essential employees who don’t work regular hours and need to travel late at night. It especially hurts my Chelsea and Everett constituents who already don’t even have access to subway or commuter rail, and solely rely on the bus to connect them with their jobs and their community. Every part of my district will be impacted by these cuts, and we should all be concerned that these “temporary” changes could become permanent, impacting our transportation system for years or even decades to come.
Our region cannot recover from this pandemic and get moving again until, and unless, we redouble our efforts to build a transportation system that facilitates the movement of people, not just cars. Reducing public transit will severely limit access to these services for communities and residents that need it most, further exacerbating inequities that the pandemic has already brought to light. If we want to heal from this, we must invest more in our transit system, not take services away. We all recognize these are difficult fiscal times, particularly for the underfunded MBTA, but these unprecedented times underscore the need for further investment in our economic drivers, not less.
As for next steps and what we can do about this, please know I am already in talks with my Senate colleagues and leadership in the Legislature regarding action we can take in response to these cuts. I have also addressed my concerns and opposition to the “Forging Ahead Initiative” directly with the MBTA’s leadership team. Additionally, the MBTA has hosted several regional meetings regarding these proposals, where I have testified against these cuts.
While the public meetings for our district have already passed, you can still submit your feedback to the MBTA by emailing them at [email protected]. I encourage everyone to do so; stopping these cuts will be a collective effort, one that requires advocacy from legislators like myself, but also grassroots opposition. The deadline for feedback is coming up soon on December 4th, so please do not delay in contacting the MBTA if you wish to register your concerns.
I have already heard from so many of my constituents on this, and many have indicated they will be contacting the MBTA as well. I am truly grateful for everyone’s advocacy on this issue. It is my sincere hope that, working together, we can stop these cuts from taking place and protect public transportation for generations to come.
Sal N. DiDomenico is an Massachusetts State Senator legislator who has served in the Massachusetts Senate since May 2010 and as Assistant Majority Leader since 2018. He is a Democrat representing the Middlesex and Suffolk district, which includes his hometown of Everett as well as Chelsea, Allston , Brighton, Charlestown , and parts of Cambridge and Boston.