A press conference led by the Transit is Essential Coalition was held on March 29, ahead of a vote by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) regarding service cuts that have been recently implemented on the subway, bus lines, and commuter rail. The Transit is Essential Coalition is made up of over 60 organizations.
“I can say with certainty that everyone here today wants one simple thing: a fully functioning T that supports bringing us bringing back our economy; bringing back Massachusetts, and we’re not there yet,” said Stacy Thompson, Executive Director of the LivableStreets Alliance.
Olivia Nichols of GreenRoots, an environmental justice organization, said she is a rider of the Green Line and the 111 bus.
“Public transit is a key component of environmental justice,” Nichols said. “The residents of Chelsea and East Boston are majority immigrant, low income residents, and communities of color.”
She said that GreenRoots has “been actively opposing” the service cuts since the fall.
“It is extremely concerning to see buses passing by that are full beyond capacity because the majority of people riding buses and trains have no other option,” she said.
She said solutions include a low income fare and the restoration of full service on the MBTA.
“We’re urging the FMCB to support the MBTA’s plan to get back to 100 percent bus and subway service and we will keep fighting for the the public transit system that our communities deserve until that is achieved.”
Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, thanked the Congressional delegation for their work on this issue.
“They released federal dollars to our communities during this time of really great need and it’s been clear that this funding…nearly a billion in this most recent round to the T has to be used to get back to full service and keep our workers in their jobs, jobs which are critical to their families and the maintenance operation of our system,” he said.
Restaurant owner Brian Moy, who owns Shojo, Ruckus, Normai, and China Pearl restaurants, said he is “proud to be a Boston small business owner and a leader in the Massachusetts Restaurant United, a grassroots advocacy group formed to help independent restaurants and our workers during the pandemic.”
He said that “we literally cannot reopen if our employees cannot come to us,” and “if our customers cannot come to us during our normal business hours, we will not be able to survive.”
DwaignTyndal, Executive Director of Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), said that there is a “problem, solution, and consequences to these cuts.”
He said that the “problem is the negative impact of cut services on Black and Brown communities, the communities that suffer the harshest during this COVID pandemic…”
He said solutions include that any more service cuts “should be done under a racial equity lens.”
He also said that ACE will continue to advocate for the services to return, as well as “aggressively pursue the legality of community impact cuts.”
Acting mayor Kim Janey is an avid T rider and supporter of public transit for all.
“Now, more than ever, Boston needs a transit system that works for everyone,” she said. “MBTA service cuts shortchange the needs of Boston’s workers and ignore the sacrifices they make each day to keep our city running. Service cuts make buses and trains more crowded and undermine our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Janey continued, “Cuts to transit service only deepen the inequalities of our public transit system.”
She said that in Boston, Black bus riders spend 64 more hours per year riding buses “as they navigate routes with large access gaps in communities of color. These kinds of disparities have persisted for too long. We all benefit when transit is fair and accessible to everyone, from reduced traffic and cleaner air. Boston deserves better.”
The MBTA recently received $435 million in additional operating support, Janey said, and “in light of this new funding, I am calling for action.” She said MBTA services should be restored “as fast as possible,” and should return first in places that have been impacted most by the pandemic and where the service cuts were the deepest.
Janey also announced the launching of a public transportation pilot that will support employees in five main streets districts: Nubian Squares, Three Squares Main Street, Mission Hill, East Boston, and Fields Corner.
“For the period of March 29 through April 19, we will provide nearly 1000 workers with free CharlieCards pre-loaded with $60 each,” Janey said. “We will also provide these workers with free two monthBlueBike passes.”
Employees in these districts can sign up for the passes at boston.gov/freeride, or by texting “freeride” to 8663960122.
“This transit pilot and other new approaches will play a key role in Boston’s recovery, reopening, and renewal,” Janey said.
“It is very important in terms of a recovery that is inequitable,” she said of the program. “We have to lift up workers and make sure that they have access to reliable transportation.”
Chris Dempsey, Director of the Transportation for Massachusetts Advocacy Coalition, said that “transit is essential” and that the funds are available to immediately restore service on the MBTA.
Dempsey said, “We need to see clarity from the MBTA’s control board that this service is coming back as soon as possible.”
He also said, “The Massachusetts economy only works when our transit system works. That ridership is going to come back. We want it to come back.”
Dempsey also thanked everyone involved in advocating for the reversal of the service cuts, “especially to Mayor Janey. Great to have her here today and great to have an MBTA rider working in City Hall.”
At the March 29 joint meeting of the MassDOT Board and the FMCB, when talking about the proposed FY22 budget, it was announced that “we will increase service levels as quickly as possible on the bus and subway, while running the Spring schedule and accelerating hiring and training,” according to a slide presented at the meeting, but no official date was provided for when it will happen.
The slide also says that the FY22 budget “includes full funding for pre-pandemic service levels on bus and subway.”
On April 5, services will be increased by approximately 88 percent versus present levels on the commuter rail with a new “Regional Rail schedule,” and there is a proposal to resume weekend service on commuter rail lines that have been suspended “as soon as possible (likely mid-May)” but a board vote will be required, a slide read. Additionally, there is a proposal to to resume ferry service in Charlestown and “increase frequency on Hingham/Hull service as needed,” it said.
“The budget previewed today offers encouragement that the MBTA and FMCB are listening to riders, advocates, our Congressional delegation, Mayor Janey, and other local elected officials. Fully funding bus and subway service for the next fiscal year, as well as beginning to restore ferry and Commuter Rail weekend service this spring, are steps in the right direction,” the Transit is Essential Coalition said in a statement.
“We urge the MBTA and FMCB to formalize these steps in the FY22 budget that will be approved in April. The service cuts have set back our region — the need to restore service and build back better is now more urgent than ever.”