Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference on December 7 to speak out against the proposed cuts to the MBTA that were announced last month. Other speakers included City Council President Kim Janey, Lee Matsueda from Community Labor United, Mike Vartabedian from the Machinists Union District 15, and Rick Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City.
“We’re here today to stand together against the proposed cuts to the MBTA,” Walsh said, adding that the T is an “essential service” to Boston and beyond.
He acknowledged that the T’s “budget challenges are real and significant,” but said that cutting service, especially during a pandemic, will be a detriment to the many essential workers who have helped keep the city and state running over the past nine months, as well as residents with disabilities and veterans.
Walsh said that the proposed cuts on the E line to end service at Brigham Circle would hinder veterans from being able to receive health care at the VA Medical Center by the Health Street stop. “…that’s wrong,” he said.
Cutting service would lead to more crowded buses and trains, Walsh said, which would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“The bottom line here is that these cuts are just simply wrong,” Walsh said. “They would hurt workers. They would discourage ridership. They will slow our recovery.”
He said that he is “demanding” that the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board “go back, sit down with the legislature, and come up with a plan that’s an equitable plan that works…cutting MBTA service will set us back further in the Commonwealth.”
Council President Kim Janey, who is advocating for free bus service, said that access to public transit has been especially important during the pandemic.
“The proposed cuts undermine the needs of our essential workers and the sacrifice they are making to protect our communities,” she said, adding that there are “already gross inequalities in MBTA service without the cuts.”
She said that on average, Black commuters spend “64 more hours on buses than white commuters” and as someone who doesn’t own a car herself, she said she knows first hand about the “long wait times” and “schedule inconsistencies” that many commuters deal with.
She said these issues could be “mitigated” with investment, rather than cuts, to the MBTA system.
“Like public schools and public libraries, public transit is a public good and we should treat it as such,” Janey said.
Lee Matsueda said that a recent survey showed that “more than 75 percent of residents are concerned about the impact these cuts will have on the safety of riders and workers.” He said that the largest group of MBTA operators and drivers lives in Dorchester, which has consistently been one of the hardest hit areas when it comes to COVID-19.
He said that making the cuts is “simply reckless.”
Mike Vartabedian said that “public transit is a necessary public service” that has reduced “greenhouse gases and provides “good middle class jobs.”
Rick Dimino added, “we must make sure that the transit system is there for us,” and that the MBTA needs to be a “fundamental part” of the economic recovery strategy for Boston and beyond.
Mayor Walsh also said that he is “confident” that president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris “will work with Congress and the Senate to pass legislation…to deal with transit,” as there are “crumbling roads and bridges all across America.”
A vote was supposed to be taken this week on the proposed cuts, but has since been postponed. Walsh said that the Fiscal and Management Control Board of the MBTA “needs to pay attention to what’s going to happen here if they make these cuts.”