New Report: Corporations Profit at Riders’ Expense Under Baker/Polito’s MBTA

New Report: Corporations Profit at Riders’ Expense Under Baker/Polito’s MBTA

New Report: Corporations Profit at Riders’ Expense Under Baker/Polito’s MBTA 

John Laing and Cubic rake in an estimated $288 million in profits and overhead costs through MBTA’s fare collection privatization scheme, acc. to the report

Transit advocates renew calls for low-income fare and urge voters to pass the Fair Share Amendment in the 2022 election

Massachusetts — Two billionaire corporations are set to make an estimated $288 million in profits and overhead costs through the MBTA’s privatized fare collection system, while low-income riders bear the lopsided burden of MBTA fares, a new report reveals.    According to the report, Un-Fare Deal, by the Public Transit Public Good coalition, less than half of the $935.4 million fare collection privatization contract with Cubic and the John Laing Group will go directly toward construction and operation. The controversial contract, which was renegotiated last year at a 30% cost increase, is estimated to include as much as $372 million in unnecessary costs, corporate overhead and profit. In addition, riders will see costs rise, as Fare Transformation plans include a new charge of up to $5 for every CharlieCard “This report is the epitome of the Baker/Polito administration’s corporate-driven policies,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15. “Governor Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito vetoed low-income fare legislation passed on Beacon Hill but on the other hand have put in effect this privatized fare collection contract that is only hurting riders and our communities.” The report calls attention to the burden on people with low incomes, who struggle to make ends meet, in the face of decades of escalating fares. Low-income riders made up more than half of MBTA riders at the height of the pandemic, dropping down to about 40% by February 2021, still higher than pre-pandemic figures. According to the analysis of the report, fares have risen faster than inflation, with cash fares nearly tripling since 1999. Public transit is less expensive on a household level than owning an automobile or using the taxi or app-based ride services, so for many low-income people, the MBTA is the best or only option. But MBTA fare increases hit low-income riders hard.  In a 2015 report, Roxbury residents have the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty level in Boston (36.2%) and are disproportionately diagnosed and hospitalized with preventable diseases,” said Emmanuel De Barros, Alternatives for Community and Environment. “Instead of helping our communities by lowering the price of this critical service, the Baker administration has been inventing new ways to take money out of our wallets and put it in the wallets of CEOs. Our families rely heavily on the MBTA, and a reduced fare for low-income families would let us put that money towards housing, food, child care, etc.” MBTA fares cost more, as a portion of the household budget, for low-income people. The report analyzes that for a rider in the lowest fifth of earners in Massachusetts, a year of monthly MBTA passes costs the equivalent of 2.5 weeks’ income (or more), but for a rider in the highest fifth, it costs just over two days’ worth of income.  “The inequality is startling. Our public transit system is not accessible or equitable,” said Karen Chen, Chinese Progressive Association. “Those who need it the most are paying more than their fair share, while billionaire corporations are padding their pockets.” The MBTA’s much-delayed and controversial privatization contract with corporations Cubic and the John Laing Group for a new, automated fare collection system is a prime example of corporate profiteering off our public transit system. According to the report, MBTA’s Fare Transformation is a “transformation for the worse” for workers and riders, raising the risk of racist fare enforcement practices and creating new barriers to mobility for low-income people, underbanked people, and people traveling at night, as well as some seniors and people with disabilities. “The Fare Transformation contract takes money away from riders and gives it to Cubic and John Laing,” said Sam Montaño, Director of Organizing at GreenRoots. “These corporations are looking out for their investors first, not riders.” Cubic fare payment systems have a long track record of overcharging riders and other problems. In late 2019 and early 2020, New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) riders reported being double charged when entering the subway using OMNY on their mobile devices. In Chicago, multiple class-action lawsuits were brought against Cubic with claims that riders were not properly credited funds on their fare cards, were double charged, or were charged fees for “phantom rides.” “Under Governor Baker, the MBTA has said it can’t afford a low-income fare, but it can afford to enrich big corporations,” said Montaño. “We need a fare policy that helps uplift working families across the state. We are urging our legislators to pass H.3526 to create a low-income fare program at the MBTA and one that will open a path to similar programs at the Commonwealth’s Regional Transit Authorities. Public transit should be fully funded by the wealthy corporations and people who can afford it most, not low-income riders like those we serve in Chelsea and East Boston. We need new progressive sources of revenue like the Fair Share Amendment we’ll be voting on next November. H.3526 may be the only way for our communities to keep using our public transit system.” 

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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.

Pressure Mounts on Gov. Baker to Stop Slashing MBTA Services and Jobs

Pressure Mounts on Gov. Baker to Stop Slashing MBTA Services and Jobs

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, February 25, 2021

For information, contact on behalf of the Public Transit Public Good coalition:
Orianna Tate, orianna@617mediagroup.com, 617-895-6783

Pressure Mounts on Gov. Baker to Stop Slashing MBTA Services and Jobs   

Sweeping advertising blitz highlights Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov Polito’s short-sighted approach to public transit and constant blows to MBTA riders and workers 

Watch the TV Ad here

Boston — Deeply unpopular MBTA service cuts backed by the Baker-Polito administration will be rolled out soon, and a coalition of transit riders and workers is advertising their opposition. The Public Transit Public Good Coalition launched a sweeping ad campaign Friday, drawing attention to the harsh impact of the cuts on low-income communities and communities of color who are already disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  

While deep cuts were framed initially as a necessary last resort, by December, it was clear that the cuts to service and jobs were coming from the top. Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have disregarded the needs of hundreds of thousands of current riders, including disproportionately low-income people and people of color, by suggesting service was unneeded because buses were “empty.” 

Watch the ad here: 

“These cuts will harm communities who already have been severely affected by COVID,” said Olivia Nichols, Transit Justice Organizer, GreenRoots. GreenRoots is a member of the Public Transit Public Good coalition. “During such a severe pandemic, we should be supporting our communities of color and low-income communities. Instead, the Baker-Polito Administration is pushing measures that would restrict access to our public transit system.”

GreenRoots is a part of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition, a growing group of MBTA riders and workers fighting for an affordable and accessible MBTA system. The coalition is calling upon the Baker-Polito administration to ensure federal stimulus money received by the MBTA is used to prevent or roll back service cuts. 

“The MBTA has received more than $1 billion in federal emergency aid since the pandemic started, and more is likely to come in the next few months,” said Chrissy Lynch, Chief of Staff, Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “The Baker-Polito administration should use this money to prevent cuts and improve equity and accessibility. We need better service and a reduced low-income fare to get to jobs, school, and medical appointments. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made public transit even more critical for those in need.” 

The 60-sec video ad details the harm the MBTA staff and service cuts will cause amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It will air during prime-time and daytime television on top-rated television stations, including CNN, MSNBC, History, NECN and CNBC. 

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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. 

Political Opposition to MBTA Budget Cuts Grows

Markey, Pressley, Lynch and more speak out against MBTA board plans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 14, 2020

For information, contact on behalf of Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Orianna Tate, orianna@617mediagroup.com, 617-895-6783

 

BOSTON, MA — On the heels of mounting criticism and opposition, elected officials, transit advocates, and workers spoke out Monday against the potential of MBTA service and job cuts. The press conference was held at the State Transportation Building, and online. Click here to watch the recording of the press conference. 

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents rely on the MBTA daily to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations. Many essential workers, who are crucial to our healthcare and economic functioning during the coronavirus pandemic, rely on public transit. The MBTA presented a modified set of proposed cuts at the Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting this afternoon, with some previously proposed cuts rolled back, but the proposal still including cuts to commuter rail, bus and ferry service, as well as longer scheduling windows on The RIDE. The MBTA is now suggesting changes be implemented beginning January, with a full slate of changes implemented pending equity and environmental review. 

“To deny community access to consistent, affordable and accessible transit services, in the midst of this crisis, will be nothing but catastrophic, and would contribute to the public health crisis, while we are in the middle of a second surge, further destabilizing families and wrecking greater hardship and havoc,” said U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) who joined the press conference via a live stream. “This unprecedented crisis does require us to be bold in our policies, as well as in our investments so that we can continue to build towards a more just and equitable long-term economic recovery in the Commonwealth and our nation as a whole.”

“I would ask the MBTA to take another look at the current cuts,” said U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA) who attended the event in person. “I’m blessed to have 3 VA hospitals in my district, Jamaica Plains, Brockton, and West Roxbury. The cuts that they are proposing would cut off the lifeline of our veterans to those very same hospitals in Jamaica Plain, in Brockton and in West Roxbury. So I’m asking Steve Poftack, and the Governor, and the MBTA board to take a closer look at this. We have time, the will of Congress is there to get transit funding to the MBTA and other transit systems throughout the country.”

“I call on the MBTA to civilly prioritize workers, including its own employees and frontline workers, using this system and any response to COVID-19. If we are to protect transportation as a public good we must invest in essential services and a strong workforce moving forward,” said U.S. Senator Ed Markey in a statement read by Jim Cantwell, Senator Markey’s State Director. 

“I am proud to stand with union members, the workers of the MBTA here today, and I am proud to stand with my elected colleagues in elected government, community groups, and the people that we all represent in saying let’s get through this together, let us beat this challenge, let us eliminate the cuts and let us find the dollars to ensure that what we believe this service will be today is going to be enhanced and benefit tomorrow,” said Mayor Thomas McGee, City of Lynn, who attended the event in person.

“I am opposed to these cuts and elimination,” Mayor Robert Sullivan, City of Brockton, through a pre-record video message that was played at the event and online. “They will have a profound detrimental, negative impact on Brockton and surrounding communities.”

Speakers warned that the proposed cuts would negatively impact families and communities throughout the state who rely on public transit. Public Transit Public Good,  a broad coalition of transit workers and riders, organized today’s press conference.

“The MBTA has heard loud and clear that these cuts are not acceptable,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director, Community Labor United. “Together, we are bringing light to a vision for a system that we all need and deserve as a critical piece of our recovery from this pandemic.”

“Cuts will strand riders, harm essential workers, and lead to hundreds of lost jobs at the MBTA,” said Collique Williams, Organizer, Community Labor United. “It will hurt our health, and environment, and slow our return to economic prosperity. Today, we anticipate the MBTA executives will put a new proposal for cuts in front of the board members. The public has had no opportunity to review this proposal. The Fiscal Management and Control Board has not had enough time to review the proposal or consider public comments. There is much we do not know about the MBTA’s plan, but we do know that deep service cuts are bad for riders, bad for workers, and bad for Massachusetts.” 

Critics of the cuts demanded that the agency’s Fiscal and Management Control Board vote “no” on the cuts, noting that what riders and workers deserve is a fully funded, accessible, and safe public transit system. 

Earlier versions of the proposed cuts would have potentially wiped out 800 jobs — jobs of frontline MBTA workers who show up every day to make our MBTA and our communities safer. As of Monday morning, the MBTA was still sitting on details of a revised package of cuts. 

“We are here today because we oppose service cuts to the MBTA,” said Jim Evers, President/Business Agent, Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589. “We are not alone — over the past months, people from all over the Commonwealth — riders, workers, business leaders and elected officials — have stood together against these cuts, knowing that these cuts are bad for our mobility, health and prosperity.”

“This is a difficult and dangerous time for us,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, IAM District 15. “We are asking the Fiscal Management and Control Board to not make it more difficult on people who have already suffered a great loss during this pandemic. We are asking them to reconsider these cuts and to make sure we protect the people who have protected us during this pandemic.” 

“I know for most of the community members, the MBTA is a lifeline,” said Ed Corra, Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 member and an MBTA driver. “Even through all these difficult months, they go out each day to provide food, clean buildings and provide healthcare to our community. We cannot let them down now.”

“The possibility of losing our jobs and being unable to provide for our families is truly crushing,“ said Michael Fusco, IAM Local 264 member. “We are already short-handed at the MBTA and any further service cuts will be devastating to the public and to the employees.”

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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. 

Residents fear impact of potential MBTA cuts on safety, frontline workers, local businesses, and economy by overwhelming margins, new poll shows

Residents fear impact of potential MBTA cuts on safety, frontline workers, local businesses, and economy by overwhelming margins, new poll shows

BOSTON, MA — New polling results show that residents in MBTA service areas are concerned by overwhelming margins that proposed cuts to MBTA service and staff will have a negative impact on transit safety, frontline workers, local businesses, and the economy. 

The results of the poll were released on the same day that the GM recommended the Board delay their vote on at least some proposed service cuts until early next year. The proposed cuts have drawn sharp criticism from riders, workers, and elected officials. A revised and partial package of cuts will reportedly be presented to and voted on by the Board at its next meeting on December 14, with other cuts potentially to be considered as part of the MBTA’s annual budget process beginning in February.

According to the survey conducted by the Public Transit Public Good coalition, more than 75% of respondents were concerned about the impact the proposed cuts would have on the ability of frontline workers to get to their jobs.

The results also showed that 70% of respondents were concerned about the impact the cuts could have on safety for riders and workers and on the impact the cuts will have on local businesses and a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Meanwhile, a new report from the same coalition also showed that the proposed MBTA cuts threaten more than 800 jobs and would have an outsized impact on Black workers and on the communities hard-hit by COVID-19.

“The people are speaking loudly and clearly,” said Lee Matsueda, of Community Labor United, one of the groups that has helped to convene the Public Transit Public Good coalition. “Going ahead with these cuts in the face of such opposition fails to recognize the transportation realities of hundreds of thousands of people who currently use or hope to return to using the MBTA as the pandemic wanes.”

The poll, which focused on residents in MBTA service areas, expanded upon and underscored the results of a prior statewide survey that also demonstrated an overwhelming opposition to the proposed cuts.

The latest poll was conducted on December 2, 2020 through interactive voice response (IVR) and surveyed 467 individual respondents in MBTA service areas. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4.53%.

Its specific findings include:

  • 67% oppose cuts to public transportation funding. Only 16.4% support the cuts.

  • 70% were concerned about the impact cuts will have on safety for riders and workers. Only 21.8% were not concerned.
  • 75.8% were concerned about the impact cuts will have on the ability of frontline workers to get to their jobs. Only 16.6% were not concerned.
  • 69% were concerned about the impact cuts will have on local businesses and on post-pandemic economic recovery. Only 22% were not concerned. 

“Cutting the service and laying off staff will put more pressure on an already inadequate and underfunded system,” continued Matsueda.“People are concerned about crowding on buses and trains as a source of COVID-19 infection, in addition to the other serious safety issues the T faces. People want ample service to allow for social distance on transit during the pandemic. And riders need to know that the safety conditions that have deteriorated under Governor Baker with record derailments and other issues are not going to get worse because he and his board are continuing to cut back on essential maintenance staff. Public transit is indispensable to the functioning of our region, transporting essential workers to jobs, while also being a major engine of economic stability and equity. It’s imperative that we have a healthy system, not one starving for resources because it has been slashed to the bone.”

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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. 

Report: MBTA cuts threaten more than 800 jobs and would have outsized impact on Black workers, communities hard-hit by COVID-19

Report: MBTA cuts threaten more than 800 jobs and would have outsized impact on Black workers, communities hard-hit by COVID-19 

BOSTON — The MBTA could eliminate over 800 jobs if the FMCB’s service and staff cuts proposal is passed, a new study finds. These job losses would have a negative impact on regional employment and a disproportionate impact on Black workers, including in communities where COVID-19 rates are already high, according to a new report by the Public Transit Public Good coalition.

On Monday, November 9, 2020, the MBTA released a detailed proposal for far-reaching and devastating service cuts that MBTA executives claimed were needed to address an anticipated revenue shortfall in its FY-2022 budget. Groups representing riders and workers, however, have labeled the cuts as reckless and premature, as given the prospects of federal relief funding and a ridership increase after COVID-19 vaccines become available.

The MBTA Advisory Board released a report that found numbers presented by the MBTA to be unnecessarily cautious and recommends that the FMCB not authorize any major service changes right now.

While MBTA executives released information on select aspects of their proposed service and programmatic cuts, details regarding the number and kind of jobs to be eliminated have not been widely shared with the public. To fill that gap, the new report from the Public Transit Public Good coalition provides estimates of job losses that are likely to occur if the cuts are implemented as planned. 

“These are unprecedented times for all workers,” said Jim Evers, President, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589. “For the MBTA to pull the rug out from under hundreds of workers and their families while the state is still reeling from COVID-19 is unconscionable.”

The report also examined the potential impacts of job loss from MBTA cuts. The proposed cuts would worsen unemployment and would have an especially harsh impact on workers who live in communities where COVID-19 rates are already high. They would have a particularly negative impact on families and communities of color already disproportionately threatened by COVID-19.

For example, many of the Carmen’s Union members, who drive MBTA buses and trains, live in communities with high rates of COVID-19 infections. Approximately 67% live in municipalities or Boston neighborhoods with current COVID-19 positive test rates of 4% or higher. Of those, more than 1,300 live in communities where COVID-19 rates surpass 6%. 

MBTA operators and drivers are a racially diverse group: 60.1% are non-white and almost 49.1% are Black. The largest group of Carmen’s Union members (about 13%) live in Dorchester, where current cumulative positivity rates are at 11.6% and 11.5%, some of the highest in the city. 

“These neighborhoods are home to some of Boston’s most vulnerable residents,” said Dwaign Tyndal, Executive Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment. “Dorchester and Roxbury are among neighborhoods with the highest populations of people of color, recent immigrants and people with low-to-moderate income. Taking away well-paying jobs from families here will cause a lot of pain.”  

“Gutting the MBTA’s budget and forcing hundreds of workers onto unemployment will worsen economic opportunity at a time when the state’s economy is already struggling,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15

“Any savings from job losses would be offset by Unemployment Insurance obligations of the MBTA and the Commonwealth,” noted Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United and a member of the Public Transit Public Good coalition

In the absence of public information from the MBTA, the report used publicly available information from FMCB meetings, public document requests from the MBTA, and other public sources to estimate the number of jobs that would be lost across the system, including direct employees and employees of companies contracted by the MBTA.

The report finds that:

  • Bus, light and heavy rail cuts
    • Cuts to the MBTA-operated systems of buses, and the Orange, Red, Green and Blue lines include decreasing frequency of service, ending service after midnight, eliminating 25 bus routes, shortening or consolidating 19 bus routes, eliminating E line service past Brigham Circle.
    • Estimate of jobs lost: 460
  • Commuter rail
    • The MBTA contracts commuter rail operations to Keolis. Cuts to Commuter rail include decreasing frequency of service, cutting all weekend service, ending service after 9pm on all lines except Fairmount (which will end by 10pm), closing six stations.
    •  Estimate of jobs lost: 130
  • Ferry 
    • The MBTA contracts ferry operations to Boston Harbor Cruises. Proposed cuts call for an end to all ferry service.
    • Estimate of jobs lost: 140
  • Parking
    • The MBTA contracts parking operations to Republic Parking System to manage and staff 100 parking facilities. Republic provides payment collection and enforcement, maintenance and snow removal. The MBTA has provided little public information on changes to its parking contract, but has described the changes as “using technology to reduce overhead costs.”
    • Estimate of jobs lost: 86
  • Transit Ambassadors (Station Customer Service)
    • The MBTA contracts in-station customer service to Block by Block. Proposed cuts would eliminate about 11% of staffing across stations.
    • Estimate of jobs lost: 18

  

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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. 

10 Reasons to Oppose MBTA Cuts

10 Reasons to Oppose MBTA Cuts
10

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.

9

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.

8

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.

7

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.

6

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.

5

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.

4

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.

3

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.

2

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.

1

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.

Workers and Riders Rally for a Safe Transit System

Workers and Riders Rally for a Safe Transit System

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.