We don’t know what the future holds. The MBTA says it needs to make deep cuts based on scenarios that forecast extended low ridership. But the fact of the matter is that the future is unknown. Recently, it was reported that more than one COVID-19 vaccine may be approved for initial use before the end of year, raising optimism for a faster end to the pandemic. With so much uncertainty, it’s best to play it safe, avoiding cuts so we know service will be there when we need it.
Service would take years to add back. In September, MBTA staff stressed that any cuts would be permanent. After public outcry, the Authority has changed its tune, saying there will be multiple opportunities to add back service. But in fact, according to the MBTA itself, it could take more than a year, possibly two, to re-hire and re-train skilled labor.
The MBTA has been struggling for years. The MBTA was already struggling before the pandemic—largely due to a high debt load, years of underfunding and bad privatization deals. Cuts now would gut an already insufficient system. More than 19,000 riders will lose access to transit, and almost 300,000 riders would have to wait longer for their bus, train, or the RIDE. Anyone who used public transit before the pandemic knows buses and trains were regularly overcrowded. Taking vehicles out of service now will ensure that unpleasant crowding conditions will return. Worsening of already-strained service could lead to a “death spiral,” as people chose not to use slow and overcrowded transit, and decreased ridership is in turn used as an excuse for further cuts.
We can afford to keep transit running. Pre-pandemic, many riders were already struggling with the cost of bus or train fare. And the pandemic has shown that relying on fare revenue to fund the system is not sustainable during times of crisis. But other sources of funding would be both more dependable and come from sources who can afford to pay. Corporations that are profiting during the pandemic—like Fidelity, Amazon, Wayfair and others—can afford to pay a bit more of their substantial gains to support essential public services like transit. And Massachusetts billionaires—like Robert Kraft, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson, and Baupost CEO Seth Klarman–can certainly afford to chip in more for taxes to support the public good.
Cuts will harm our environment. Based on the MBTA’s own estimates, more than 19,000 people will lose access to transit at the time and place they need it. These people, along with many of the hundreds of thousands who face longer wait times, are likely to turn to cars if they can. As we know, automobile pollution drives climate change, and helps create the bad air quality that is known to worsen COVID outcomes, especially in environmental justice communities hardest hit by the disease.
Cuts will worsen unemployment. The MBTA hasn’t disclosed how many people will lose their jobs, hundreds of people employed within the MBTA system will likely be put out of work. We also know that public transit has indirect and induced job impact, meaning the economic toll of cuts will extend far beyond MBTA workers. Massachusetts is already struggling with a high unemployment rate and unemployment insurance needs. Our public agencies should work to mitigate unemployment, not add to it.
The MBTA’s process is strikingly undemocratic. At a time when an historic presidential election has focused our attention on the fundamental importance of democracy, the MBTA has done little to ensure public input is respected. In 2012, facing proposed cuts of a similar magnitude, the MBTA held two dozen meetings over the span of three months. This time there are only 10 public meetings, scheduled over a period of just three weeks. The electronic format of these meetings means the MBTA has more control over the process; rather than allowing the time necessary for public comment, the Authority has cut off members of the public who wished to have their voices heard.
Cuts could increase crowding on public transit. Back in May, the MBTA adopted a crowding standard that called for only three feet between riders, not the six feet recommended everywhere else (and by the CDC for transit riders). Even using the MBTA’s not-very-strict definition, the most heavily used bus lines—which mostly serve communities of color–regularly have crowding. Taking buses and train cars out of service could lead to even more crowding on board transit. While it’s not clear that transit use raises COVID-19 transmission risk for riders, we do know that more than 170 MBTA employees have contracted the virus, and one inspector passed away in April.
Essential workers need good public transit. The pandemic made it clear that some workers play an outsized role in helping us meet our basic needs at a time of crisis. These essential workers include nurses, doctors and other health care providers, grocery store and other food system workers, social and public service workers, and distribution and transportation workers, including of course, MBTA workers. Not surprisingly, given that they cannot work from home, essential workers already face a higher burden of COVID infection. Many essential workers have continued to rely on public transit to get to their jobs—in many cases because despite the importance of their work, it is low paid, meaning the bus or train is the only affordable option. Essential workers deserve not only thanks—they deserve a public transit system that is as accessible, as equitable and as safe as possible.
Public transit is a public good. Secretary of Transportation Pollock and some MBTA officials have suggested that it is not worth the cost to run public transit if ridership is low. Secretary Pollack has suggested that public transit’s “business model” is no longer working. But what these officials misunderstand is that public transit is not a business, it is a public good. Public goods are provided for the benefit or well-being of the public, not for profit. Although ridership is down, the MBTA continues to provide benefit to all of us. For the reasons listed above and more, the FMCB should oppose the cuts and focus instead on capturing sustainable, progressive, and equitable new revenue to maintain and expand service.
Citing potential lost opportunities for economic growth, essential workers in need of reliable transportation, and the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advocates and officials are raising their voices to call on MBTA leaders to reconsider proposed service cuts as the system suffers pandemic-related financial losses.
On Thursday, a rolling rally of transit workers and riders organized by the Public Transit Public Good Coalition brought that message outside the State Transportation Building in Downtown Boston.
Read the full article on Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – A large group of MBTA riders and workers held a rolling rally in Boston Thursday morning to protest drastic service cuts proposed by the T.
The rally was organized by Public Transit Public Good, which says on its website that it is “a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit.”
Read the full article on CBS Boston
Community members and labor groups participated in a rally to oppose MBTA service cuts, on November 19. The protest, organized by Public Transit Public Good, began at Summer Street in the Seaport District and moved to the State Transportation Building. Speakers addressed the importance of having accessible, affordable public transportation and the tens of thousands of people who depend upon the T to get to work, school, and other destinations.
“Covid-19 has reshaped our daily lives,” said executive director of Community Labor United Lee Matsueda, in a press release. “Bus and train services remain critical for the riders who take hundreds of thousands of trips every day, and especially the essential workers who have kept our communities running during this pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need a transit system that works for all of us, and that means a safe, affordable, and accessible service.”
Read the full article on DIG Boston
A broad coalition of riders, workers and labor unions is planning a protest and rolling rally outside the MBTA’s Boston headquarters as the agency mulls service cuts.
MBTA officials want to eliminate 25 bus routes, weekend commuter rail service, ferries and more.
The transit agency is dealing with a considerable budget gap due to low ridership and declining fare revenue during the pandemic.
The rolling rally begins at 10 a.m. with cars and bikes gathering on Summer Street in the Seaport to start the ride to the transportation building on Stuart Street.
Read the full article on WCVB
A group of MBTA employees and commuters were scheduled to hold a rolling rally outside the agency’s Boston headquarters on Thursday morning to speak out against proposed service cuts.
The rally, organized by Public Transit Public Good, was in response to proposed service cuts the MBTA put forward earlier this month due to a decline in ridership and revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Read the full article on NBC Boston
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Massive, socially-distanced rolling rally to the State Transportation Building demanded that the FMCB not cut MBTA service and jobs
BOSTON — Transit riders, workers, and community leaders came together Thursday to oppose significant service and job cuts proposed for the MBTA. The rolling demonstration through downtown Boston ended with a rally at the State Transportation Building, and emotional testimonials from speakers about the pain these cuts will inflict on families and communities throughout the state.
Communities that rely on public transit have been shaken by recent proposals from MBTA executives to enact devastating cuts to the agency, slashing commuter rail, bus, subway, and ferry service. Public Transit Public Good, a broad coalition of transit workers and riders, organized the rally in advance of an MBTA hearing that evening.
“The state has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. People need support, not a rollback in essential services,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, which convenes the Public Transit Public Good coalition. “Now more than ever, we need a safe, affordable, and accessible transit system that works for all.”
“Transit justice is social justice,” said Jim Evers, President, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589. “Public transit is a public good, and we’re in this fight for the long haul.”
“There are many neighborhoods that could become inaccessible without adequate public transportation, limiting the ability of people to access critical health services,” said Susan Backstrom, Member, GreenRoots. “The MBTA and our elected officials need to consider the needs of the people in these neighborhoods before just cutting them off from the services they desperately need.”
The rally-goers urged the FMCB to rethink these deep and long-term cuts and instead seek new revenues. President-Elect Biden has pledged hundreds of millions in infrastructure investments. Here in Massachusetts, progressive revenues could be generated by raising the corporate income tax rate and other measures. It is foolish to make drastic, long-lasting cuts when new resources could become available. Most of the proposed cuts would take place beginning in July 2021.
“Even as COVID-19 has reshaped our daily lives, bus and train service remains critical to countless riders, especially to the frontline essential workers who have kept our communities running during the pandemic,” said Chrissy Lynch, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “We deserve a safe and reliable transit system. Instead of cutting service, the FMCB should make long-overdue investments in public transit.”
“We are encouraged by the turnout today, on foot, by car and bike, and online,” said Darlene Lombos, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Greater Boston Labor Council. “It is so moving to see transit riders and transit workers coming together with one voice to send a clear message that public transit must be protected. Massachusetts should be investing more in public transportation, not less. We should be increasing access to the communities most in need, not cutting them off from their jobs and schools.”
Riders throughout the MBTA system still take hundreds of thousands of trips a day to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations. The essential workers we rely on during the pandemic need reliable and uncrowded public transportation to get to and from work safely.
Hundreds of jobs will be lost if the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board votes to approve proposed cuts. Sweeping layoffs across the system would further destabilize Massachusetts families and communities and leave the MBTA unable to quickly restart cut services as demand for public transit rebounds.
“The people being hurt by these cuts are the people who have risked and suffered the most during this terrible pandemic,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15. “It is unfair for the MBTA and our elected officials to ask these people to suffer an even greater loss.”
“We’re the ones keeping this system running,” said Karen Maxwell, Assistant Secretary, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589. “Cuts are not acceptable.”
The pandemic‐induced drop in fare revenue has exacerbated the MBTA’s chronic underfunding and our Commonwealth’s public transit system. Instead of cuts, the coalition asks the FMCB to focus instead on capturing sustainable, progressive, and equitable new revenue.
“Now is the time to invest in an equitable, safe, and reliable public transit system that serves everyone, especially those in communities that have been under-resourced for decades,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, President, MassBudget. “The proposed service cuts to address the T’s revenue shortfall could threaten the safety of riders and shift more people back into cars further harming our environment.”
In its effort to make transit safe for our communities, the coalition announced that it would begin a sweeping advertising campaign hitting airwaves next week. Ads will air during prime-time and daytime television on top-rated television stations, including CNN, MSNBC History, and CNBC. The campaign will also be featured on digital platforms.
Invest in our Public Transit with Corporate Fair Share Policies
Large corporations and their wealthy shareholders have used loopholes, tax breaks, and weak corporate disclosure laws to avoid paying their fair share of taxes for years. In the last four years alone, large corporations have received federal tax cuts worth billions of dollars a year in Massachusetts.
And during this economic crisis, many of these corporations have continued to generate enormous profits that flow to their extremely wealthy shareholders, even as most families are struggling just to get by. It’s time that they pay what they owe to support our economic recovery.
Raising progressive revenue to fund needed public goods—including public transit will — help prevent a long recession, fight inequality, and advance economic opportunity. Legislators should adopt policies that ask profitable corporations and their wealthy shareholders to do their part for our economic recovery.
- Increase The Tax Rate On Corporate Profits. Businesses that are turning a profit should be expected to contribute more to support the public goods on which their profits are based, especially during a public health and state fiscal crisis. Raising the current rate of 8% to the pre-2010 rate of 9.5% could generate $375 – $500 million annually from profitable businesses, even during a recession.
- Tax Profits Shifted Overseas by Increasing The Tax Rate On GILTI (Global Intangible Low Taxed Income). Many multinational corporations that do business in MA dodge taxes through accounting schemes that make their MA-based profits look like they were earned in offshore tax havens. This “income shifting” often places profits beyond the reach of US tax authorities. MA should follow many other states and match the federal provision that makes half of this income subject to tax. This could generate $200 – $400 million annually.
- Advance the Fair Share Amendment. The very wealthy can afford to contribute more to the public good. The Fair Share Amendment would create an additional tax of four percentage points on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million. The new revenue, approximately $2 billion a year, would be spent on quality public education and transportation, creating a new source of progressive funding for public transportation. This year, the Massachusetts Legislature must approve the Amendment at the Constitutional Convention, so it can move to the ballot in 2022.