3 steps for turning around the MBTA

CommonWealth Magazine

Month-long shutdowns, frequent and serious accidents, a fire on the Orange Line, debilitating worker shortages, and a system so dysfunctional that it was facing takeover by the federal government — all of these events illustrate the systemwide crisis at the MBTA.

With a new administration on the horizon, however, our hopes are high for real and lasting change. On the campaign trail, Gov.-elect Maura Healey shared a vision for transportation that foregrounds equity and safety. As she and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll take office, there are three steps they can take right away to begin making that vision a reality.

Read the full op-ed at CommonWealth Magazine.

Who is paying for all of the ads about ‘millionaires tax’ ballot question? What we know

On Tuesday, proponents of Yes on Question 1 ‒ MBTA Workers for Yes on 1, Public Transit Public Good and Riders, Workers and Commuters United for Transit Justice ‒ rallied with riders, workers, union officials and politicians to urge passage of the ballot initiative.

“This is a top priority for us,” said Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. He called it an opportunity for the state’s wealthiest residents to invest in the future of the state. “It’s important for transportation, it’s important for public education; these are the hallmarks of a successful commonwealth.”


Read the full article at Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Rep. Adrian Madaro, Sen. Lydia Edwards, and MBTA riders and workers rally for Yes on 1

Rep. Adrian Madaro, Sen. Lydia Edwards, and MBTA riders and workers rally for Yes on 1

Based on the findings of a new report, workers and riders affirmed that voting Yes on 1 could provide necessary funding to aid the MBTA’s burgeoning safety crisis 

BOSTON — As the crisis at the MBTA mounts ahead of the November elections, transit riders, workers, and allies rallied at Faneuil Hall on October 25 to call for a better future for Massachusetts public transit with the passage of Question 1 on the November ballot.

Riders, workers, and allies including Rep. Adrian Madaro and Sen. Lydia Edwards, rallied on the heels of a new report detailing that Question 1, known as the Fair Share Amendment, could pay for much-needed safety-related work and provide a stable funding source for the MBTA, making it safer and fairer for decades to come. If passed, Question 1 will create new funding for public education and transportation by requiring the rich to pay their fair share in taxes.

“Just a portion of the funds from this Amendment could provide the much-needed support to ensure the MBTA can pay for the preventative maintenance, repair, and inspections necessary to keep it running smoothly,” said Collique Williams, Senior Organizer, Community Labor United, and Member, Public Transit Public Good coalition. “By passing this initiative, we can fund the MBTA more fairly, and create the safe and well-maintained transit system the region needs.”

This funding is urgently needed as MBTA riders continue to face disastrous accidents, insufficient service, painfully slow trains, and shutdowns of key train routes. The report finds that Question 1 could provide a dedicated source of funds for maintenance and repair, keeping workers and riders secure while reducing pressure for the MBTA to cut service or raise fares in order to fund safety initiatives.

“The reality is, working families need to get to work on time, and they need to get their kids to medical appointments and school. We have to invest in the safety of riders. Voting Yes on Question 1 will make the MBTA safer and more fair,” said Representative Adrian Madaro.

“Public transportation is one of the few things that connect all of us regardless of our backgrounds,” said Senator Lydia Edwards. “The ability to move in a clean, efficient, timely way is necessary for our society, our state, and our economy to grow. Yes on 1 will ensure that we have the funds to continue to move in a direction that is equitable, diverse, and works for all of us.”

The new report by PTPG Coalition also reveals that nearly 60% of the MBTA is funded by sales taxes. With this funding structure, low-income families pay more in sales tax as a percentage of the household budget compared to wealthier households. The Fair Share Amendment would tax annual income over $1 million at a higher rate, and the resulting revenue could be used to fund the MBTA. 

“During the orange line shutdown, it would take me close to two hours to get from Wakefield to Chelsea, and my new route would include a combination of local buses, walking, and shuttle buses,” said Mitikei Chengerei, a member of Chelsea-based GreenRoots. “The MBTA is a public good, and it should be reliable, affordable, and accessible to all communities. That’s why voting yes on Question 1 on November 8 will be vital for the future of the MBTA.”

The Fair Share Amendment is expected to generate $2 billion in new revenue, and workers, riders, and community leaders affirmed on Tuesday that it could provide a critical opportunity to get the MBTA on track through long-term, sustainable funding.

“Whether you ride the MBTA every day or not, we’re all in this together,” said Jim Evers, President of Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589. “Operators are dealing with a system that for far too long has been underfunded and sometimes ignored. We need better funding for the MBTA so we can safely do our jobs and keep Boston moving.” 

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About the Public Transit Public Good Coalition: 

Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.

Background on Question 1: the Fair Share Amendment:The Fair Share Amendment – Question 1 on the November ballot – will allow Massachusetts to improve our transportation and public education systems by making the very rich pay their fair share. Thousands of educators, workers, small business owners, parents, faith leaders, municipal officials, drivers and transit riders, and more than 350 organizations across the state are working together to pass Question 1. Our campaign has been endorsed by 80 labor unions, 63 community organizing groups, 15 faith-based groups, more than 75 businesses, and more than 100 other social service and not-for-profit organizations focused on housing, education, transportation, public health, and the environment. Learn more and get involved at FairShareMA.com.

Kraft gets kicked by Question 1 tax backers

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was blasted by MBTA workers and riders for trying to defeat a ballot initiative that would tax the wealthy to pay for fixes at the beleaguered agency.

In a new report, advocacy group Public Transit Public Good said Kraft, the state’s second-richest resident with a net worth of $10.6 billion, is one of the top financial contributors to a campaign that opposes the Fair Share Amendment.

Appearing as Question 1 on the November ballot, Fair Share would create a 4% surtax on income over $1 million dedicated to transportation and education.

Read the full article at Boston Herald

Coalition wants to use Ballot Question 1 income to fund the T, criticizes Robert Kraft for opposing surtax

A coalition that has long called for increasing investment in the MBTA has its eye on the income surtax voters will decide in less than three weeks, pitching it as a viable source of funding for the under-fire agency while calling out billionaire Robert Kraft’s spending in opposition to the measure.

Drawing on input from organized labor leaders and other advocates, the Public Transit Public Good coalition argues in a new report obtained by the News Service that the proposal to tax personal income above $1 million at a higher rate represents an opportunity to secure a new dedicated revenue stream for the T, which could help close budget gaps and ramp up safety-critical outlays.

Read the full article at Boston Business Journal

Coalition Eyes Surtax To Rescue MBTA

State House News Service

Report Outlines Kraft Opposing Surtax, While Gillette Benefits From T

Chris Lisinski

A coalition that has long called for increasing investment in the MBTA has its eye on the income surtax voters will decide in less than three weeks, pitching it as a viable source of funding for the under-fire agency while calling out billionaire Robert Kraft’s spending in opposition to the measure.

Drawing on input from organized labor leaders and other advocates, the Public Transit Public Good coalition argues in a new report obtained by the News Service that the proposal to tax personal income above $1 million at a higher rate represents an opportunity to secure a new dedicated revenue stream for the T, which could help close budget gaps and ramp up safety-critical outlays.

The MBTA might feel pressure to trim service or raise fares as it works to implement necessary changes ordered by the Federal Transit Administration, which warned in a scathing investigation that the T is 1,500 to 2,000 employees short of the workforce it needs to maintain its current level of activity.

While the Public Transit Public Good coalition said the added transportation revenue from the surtax will not allow the T to eliminate fares or its reliance on dedicated funding from the state’s sales tax, the group argued it would create a new pool of resources “by taxing the super-wealthy to advance the public good.”

“The MBTA does not have enough funding for the maintenance and repair of the existing assets,” authors wrote. “While the MBTA clearly needs new policies and leadership that will prioritize worker and rider safety, needed changes will not be possible at current funding levels. In addition to the many costs of keeping a large public transit system running, the MBTA operating budget covers payments on debt interest and principle, dating back to debt transferred to the Authority in the wake of the ‘Big Dig.’ For decades, the debt costs have threatened the MBTA.”

In addition to its annual state allocation, lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker have injected the MBTA with $666 million so far in one-time funding to make the safety improvements requirement by the FTA’s investigation, and millions more could flow to the agency through a stalled closeout budget bill.

House and Senate Democrats have opted not to return to longer-term MBTA funding questions in the months since the Senate spiked a House-approved package of transportation tax and fee hikes in 2020.

“Instead of trying to squeeze more fares out of riders who are already struggling to pay, it’s time for multi-millionaires to pitch in,” said Jim Evers, president of Carmen’s Union Local 589 that represents MBTA workers, in a quote in the report. “Passing Fair Share could be a turning point in making sure the MBTA has what we need to have a safe and efficient system.”

Kraft, often in the spotlight as owner of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, has himself been quiet about the proposal, but his company Rand-Whitney Containerboard in May donated $1 million to the campaign seeking to sink the ballot question.

Public Transit Public Good authors juxtaposed that contribution with the role that the MBTA plays in delivering fans and patrons to the Patriots and Kraft’s other business interests around Gillette Stadium.

For decades, the coalition said, the MBTA ran special commuter rail service to Foxborough only for football games and special events. Kraft’s team and Baker pushed for expanded weekday commuter rail service to Foxborough, whose station is adjacent to Gillette Stadium and the Patriot Place mall.

The T started a pilot in October 2019, canceled it the following year when COVID-19 hit, and then last month revived a new year-long pilot featuring 10 weekday round trips between Foxborough and Boston. Public Transit Public Good pointed out that Patriots cheerleaders greeted passengers and a Kraft Group spokesperson praised the program on its first day.

“The celebration makes you wonder — why would Kraft oppose a new tax that could help keep the trains that serve his customers safe and well-maintained?” Public Transit Public Good wrote. “Maybe it’s because he’s more interested in profiting from the MBTA than in paying his fair share.”

A Kraft Group spokesperson declined to elaborate on Kraft’s stance about the surtax following his company’s donation to the opposition campaign.

In response to the Public Transit Public Good’s criticism, the Kraft Group spokesperson said Patriot Place operated for more than 10 years before the T expanded service to Foxborough and that Kraft is paying a “six-figure” sum to help fund the pilot program.

Opponents of the income surtax, who have also received sizable donations from New Balance Chairman Jim Davis and Suffolk Construction owned by John Fish, argue that the policy could drive higher earners to flee Massachusetts and trip up some small business owners who pay personal income tax rather than corporate taxes.

The coalition’s desire to snag surtax funds for the MBTA hints as some of the battles to come if Question 1 is approved, which would unleash a competition for the new revenues among myriad education interests as well as those seeking investments in transportation outside of the MBTA region.

Analysts say the higher rate on top earners could generate $1.3 billion per year in new revenue, and the text of the ballot question calls for the money to be steered toward education and transportation needs.

However, the proposal does not guarantee that the new funding for education and transportation will supplement existing allocations, and legislative leaders might choose to redirect current appropriations elsewhere and replace them with surtax money.

“Even if every dime from this surtax goes to education and transportation as the proponents intend, it doesn’t mean that the Legislature has to continue spending what they currently appropriate on education and transportation,” Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny, who opposes the ballot question, said during a debate last week. “As you all know, money is fungible. So the money from this can be guaranteed for education and transportation, but it’s not additive.”

The coalition plans to host a rally with workers and riders in support of the ballot question at Faneuil Hall on Tuesday.

Full article found at State House News.

Fair Share Amendment promises to make MBTA safer, fairer at time of mounting crisis

An infusion of revenues generated by the Fair Share Amendment can be used to address chronic safety and performance problems at the MBTA, according to a new report by the Public Transit Public Good coalition 

BOSTON — Frightening accidents, service cuts, deferred maintenance, budget shortfalls, and now weeks-long shutdowns on the Orange and Green Lines underscore the ongoing crisis at the MBTA. Investments by the state are urgent to revive our public transit system and address the MBTA’s safety, operational, and affordability crisis. 

An initiative on this November’s ballot could secure funding needed to address the MBTA’s safety challenges, as well as fund other transportation projects statewide. Question 1, known as the Fair Share Amendment, could pay for much-needed infrastructure investments and provide a stable funding source, making the MBTA safer and fairer for decades to come, according to a new report by Public Transit Public Good, a coalition of MBTA workers, riders, and community advocates.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Fair Share would create new revenues from a small tax increase on the very rich, that could be used to fund ongoing safety needs at the MBTA.
  • One key reason for the safety crisis at the MBTA is there is not enough funding for the maintenance and repair of the existing assets. Question 1 could provide a dedicated source of funds for maintenance and repair, keeping workers and riders secure while reducing pressure for the MBTA to cut service or raise fares in order to fund safety initiatives.  
  • Currently, the two largest sources of MBTA funding are fares and sales taxes. Both of these cost more – as a percentage of household budget – for people with lower incomes. 
    • Regressive taxes and fares deepen economic divides and worsen racial inequity. 
  • Unlike fares and sales tax, the Fair Share Amendment is a progressive tax. With a progressive tax, individuals with higher incomes pay a higher proportion of that income in taxes. 

“So many of the MBTA’s problems today are due to years of underfunding – we just don’t have enough people or resources to keep up with the maintenance demand. The Fair Share Amendment could make sure mechanics, inspectors, and tradespeople who work at the MBTA have the resources we need to do our jobs. With those resources, we can keep our riders safe,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15.

If approved by voters, the Fair Share Amendment would generate funds to be used for two purposes: public education and the maintenance and repair of our Commonwealth’s transportation system. It’s expected to generate $2 billion in new revenue, and represents a critical opportunity to finally stop playing catch-up when it comes to funding the MBTA and to finally get it back on track through long-term funding.

“Just a portion of the funds from this Amendment can provide the much-needed support to ensure the MBTA can pay for the preventative maintenance, repair, and inspections necessary to keep it running smoothly,” said Collique Williams, Senior Organizer, Community Labor United, and Member, Public Transit Public Good coalition. “By passing this initiative, we can fund the MBTA more fairly, and create the safe and well-maintained transit system the region needs.”

“Question 1 is a win for everyone who travels by train, bus, or commuter rail, and for all of us who depend on the MBTA to power Greater Boston’s economy,” said Jeron Mariani, Campaign Manager for Fair Share for Massachusetts. “Passing Question 1 will mean $2 billion a year that’s constitutionally dedicated to transportation and public education, so it can only be spent on those priorities, including the MBTA and regional transit authorities across the state. And 99 percent of Massachusetts taxpayers won’t pay a penny more. Billionaires who don’t care about the MBTA because they never ride it are trying to scare voters about Question 1, but we can be confident that passing Question 1 will mean a safer, fairer MBTA for all of us.”

For decades, the MBTA has been underfunded and has deferred necessary maintenance projects. 

“Since 2016, the MBTA operating budget has grown, but has not kept up with inflation. An infusion of federal support during the first years of the COVID pandemic prevented cuts to the budget in FY21 and 22. But as federal money is spent, the MBTA is predicting budget shortfalls of more than $400 million as soon as FY 2025,” the report notes. 

The Fair Share Amendment would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million, allowing the richest one percent to help fund the state’s transit system instead of putting the burden on working people, seniors and young people. To ensure that the amendment continues to apply only to the highest income taxpayers, who have the ability to pay more, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases. This ensures that folks like Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Massachusetts’ second-richest billionaire, who stands to profit handsomely from expanded MBTA service bringing football fans, commuters and shoppers to “Patriot Place” in Foxborough, do their part to support the system.

But as noted in the report, “As of September 9, 2022, Kraft has given $1 million to oppose the Fair Share Amendment, through a Connecticut company he owns, Rand-Whitney Containerboard. This ranks him among the top five contributors to the No on 1 effort.”

“As a student and commuter who uses public transit, it is important to me that we improve our transportation. We need reliable and efficient transportation for students, workers, and everyone,” said Jazmany Reyes, GreenRoots.

On November 8, 2022, voters will have the opportunity to reimagine what is possible — a fairer tax system that funds public education and transportation, and a transit system

that is safe and sustainably funded. The Fair Share Amendment holds the potential to make the MBTA safer and fairer in the decades to come.

“I rely on public transportation on a daily basis, to go to work, grocery shop, and to doctor appointments. Every week I use public transportation to go to church and see friends. Public transit is a lifeline for me and so many others in my community, we need to invest in it,” said Mitikei Chengerei, Member, GreenRoots.

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About Public Transit Public Good Coalition: 

Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.

Background on Question 1: the Fair Share Amendment:

The Fair Share Amendment – Question 1 on the November ballot – will allow Massachusetts to improve our transportation and public education systems by making the very rich pay their fair share. Thousands of educators, workers, small business owners, parents, faith leaders, municipal officials, drivers and transit riders, and more than 350 organizations across the state are working together to pass Question 1. Our campaign has been endorsed by 80 labor unions, 63 community organizing groups, 15 faith-based groups, more than 75 businesses, and more than 100 other social service and not-for-profit organizations focused on housing, education, transportation, public health, and the environment. Learn more and get involved at FairShareMA.com.

Transit riders, workers, and advocates respond to the FTA’s report on the MBTA

Transit riders, workers, and advocates respond to the FTA’s report on the MBTA - K19I: CS: Community Labor United (CLU): Public Transit Public Good

BOSTON – In response to the recent Safety Management Inspection final report released by the Federal Transit Administration, workers and riders of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition shared the following statement:

“The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) report released today is a clear indictment of Governor Baker’s approach to the MBTA and the Department of Public Utilities tasked with overseeing transit safety. We’ve seen too many years of Baker’s MBTA ignoring needed maintenance, starving operations of needed funds, and putting workers and riders at risk. For safe and reliable service moving forward – and to ensure the MBTA can hire the workers it needs – we must ensure the MBTA has an adequate operating budget, prioritizes safety, and listens to workers and riders.”

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About Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. 

Transit riders and workers demand accountability, issue plan for “getting on board” a better MBTA

Public Transit Public Good coalition lays out principles to fix troubled public transit system, maintain local control

View the policy statement here.

BOSTON — Transit riders and workers are demanding fundamental changes to the failing MBTA system, laying out a plan to fix the region’s problem-plagued public transportation system, as the MBTA prepares to shut down the entire Orange Line for a full month.

“We are beyond the crisis point with public transit in Massachusetts, but this is also a moment when we must work together to correct the failures of the past, and deliver on one of the government’s core functions: public services,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 15 and Co-Chair of Public Transit Public Good. “Decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance, as well as eight years of Governor Baker’s privatization attempts and crippling understaffing have proven disastrous. We’ve seen service cuts, harmful disruptions, deaths, runaway trains, fires, and countless other disasters and near-disasters. It’s time to right this public service once and for all — while we still have the chance.” The Coalition will deliver a policy statement to the City of Boston, the MBTA, and other stakeholders, demanding accountability and action.

The statement echoed recent calls from elected officials and transit advocates for suspending the collection of fares during the Orange Line shut-down, and called on employers in the public and private sectors to waive penalties for tardiness during the month of repairs. “Municipalities can lead by protecting workers who may not be able to get to work on time because of MBTA delays,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council (GBLC). “Cities and towns can waive their own penalties for tardiness, and can call on major employers to do the same.”

Beyond the Orange and Green Line service suspensions, the Coalition calls for maintaining local control even as the Federal Transit Administration safety directives have forced a reckoning with the system’s safety. “A federal takeover of the system is not the answer,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United. “Receivership would mean decision-makers were even more removed from the people at the heart of the system. What we need is the opposite – to take real leadership from the workers and riders who keep the MBTA running.”

“Folks who rely on buses and trains to get around are entitled to inform and decide the direction of the MBTA,” said Sam Montaño, Director of Organizing for GreenRoots, “particularly elderly folks, people with disabilities and riders from environmental justice communities who face high levels of pollution and public health disparities from environmental impacts. The MBTA should be prioritizing the voices of those most impacted in addition to workers, who have an expert understanding of the system they operate and maintain.”

The coalition has called for an increase in funding to carry out MBTA repairs, safety improvements, hiring, operations, and maintenance, from sources including federal infrastructure funds and the Massachusetts budget. Coalition members are backing Question 1 – the Fair Share Amendment – which would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million and dedicate those funds to transportation and public education.

Members of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition are also calling for protections against harmful privatization deals and a commitment to low-income fares, which are supported by 84% of Massachusetts residents in a recent survey.

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About Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.

MBTA riders and workers vow to continue the fight for a low-income fare after the Legislature did not include the popular measure in bond bill sent to Gov.

MBTA riders and workers vow to continue the fight for  a low-income fare after the Legislature did not include the popular measure in bond bill sent to Gov.

BOSTON — In response to the recent decision by Massachusetts state legislators to exclude a low-income fare from the Transportation Bond Bill, MBTA riders and workers of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition shared the following statement:

“MBTA riders desperately need a public transit system that is affordable and equitable. Yet, our elected leaders missed an opportunity to advance an effective and popular policy solution that would increase affordability for working families and communities of color when they failed to include a low-income fare measure in the Transportation Bond Bill. We are grateful to champions of transit affordability in both the Senate and the House, but are deeply disappointed that a low-income fare was not included in this important legislation. 

Our state is facing a transit crisis, but the fight for transit affordability is not over. We know that 84% of Massachusetts residents support a fare reduction for families who rely on public transit but have limited resources to pay for the MBTA. We will continue to fight for reduced fares for low-income riders, including calling on our next governor to ensure the MBTA swiftly adopts this common-sense measure.”

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About Public Transit Public Good Coalition: 

Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.