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.

Sen. Lydia Edwards, Rep. Adrian Madaro, riders and transit workers demand affordability and equity for all: Pass low-income fare legislation now!

Sen. Lydia Edwards, Rep. Adrian Madaro, riders and transit workers demand affordability and equity for all: Pass low-income fare legislation now!

Riders and workers deliver 1,000+ petition signatures to Governor, Senate leadership demanding affordability, equity on the MBTA

BOSTON – Riders and transit workers fed up with the high cost of riding the MBTA called on the Legislature Tuesday to take urgent action to pass a low-income fare provision, and on Governor Baker to sign it into law.

“The best thing we can do is to make sure there is a low-income fare,” said Senator Lydia Edwards. “The only way we can honestly make sure that we’re representing everybody in the Commonwealth – and if you look at this wonderful, beautiful tapestry of individuals you see all colors, you see workers, you see professionals, you see people in unions, you see working people trying their best to make sure they represent everyone here. We are the Commonwealth. This is who we are. This is who we represent. And, this is the right thing to do right now.”

The Public Transit Public Good Coalition, representing transit workers and riders across Massachusetts, held a press conference at the State House to call on the Legislature and Governor Baker to sign low-income fare provisions into law to improve equity at the MBTA. The group also entered the State House and presented a giant CharlieCard with more than 1,000 petition signatures to Speaker of the House Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, and Governor Baker.

“When you’re in a family of low-wage workers, every penny, every cent counts because a $90 monthly pass is a lot for my family. And even for a bus card, that’s $50, but that’s still a lot,” said Huiquin Huang, of the Chinese Progressive Association. “So what I do is that sometimes I walk 15 minutes to the bus so that I can save 70 cents because that 70 cents will go to my next ride for the bus. And this is how I make sure that we can put food on the table.”

“Whether you ride the subway every day or not, we’re all in this together. Boston has long been a leader in transit, the first subway system in North America opened here in 1897. It’s once again time for us to lead by working to make transit more accessible and equitable,” said Jim Evers, President of Carmen’s Union Local 589. “Low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately rely on public transportation to get where they need to go. We cannot meaningfully uplift these communities without adequate support and funding for our MBTA system. Low-income fares are just one small step we can take to make the system more fair and equitable.” 

“I remain hopeful and look forward to continuing this work with my colleagues in the legislature, as well as with dedicated advocates, many of whom are behind me, the labor groups, and so many others here this afternoon who have worked tirelessly to advance this issue and get us where we are today. But we have more work to do, to get this bill passed,” said Representative Adrian Madaro.

Historically, service cuts by MBTA management have hit workers and riders hardest. For years, working people and communities of color have carried a disproportionate burden of the cost of running the MBTA, and now, with inflation soaring and ridership down, that burden is even more pronounced. The crisis at the MBTA is affecting people across the Commonwealth who count on this service to be affordable and equitable every day. 

Polls show support for a low-income fare is high – at 84 percent – across the Commonwealth. The Legislature has passed this commonsense policy before, only to see it vetoed by Governor Baker, another example of his failure of leadership on public transit. In the final weeks of the session, elected leaders and Governor Baker must take this vital step in solving the MBTA crisis by passing a low-income fare. 

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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. 

Public Transit Public Good coalition issues statement on the MBTA Board’s FY2023 budget

BOSTONIn response to the recently approved FY2023 budget that neglects to include a reduced fare for low-income riders, Public Transit Public Good Coalition shared this statement: 

“MBTA riders are looking to Beacon Hill to pass low-income fare legislation after the Authority failed to include the popular affordability measure in its FY23 budget. A low-income fare would put $500 a year back into the pockets of those who need it most: riders. 

In the face of MBTA inaction, our legislators must act. Governor Baker vetoed a low-income fare provision in last year’s Transportation Bond Bill. Since then, the popularity of the measure has grown, with support from 79% of voters statewide, Boston Mayor Wu, and a broad range of labor, community, advocacy and business groups. This year, our Senators and Representatives must listen to voters and advance this important measure before the end of the session.”  

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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. 

Public Transit Public Good coalition: Beacon Hill must seize this moment to address both MBTA safety crisis and transit affordability crisis

BOSTON In response to the recent poll results by MassInc. highlighting widespread public support for a reduced fare for low-income riders, Public Transit Public Good Coalition shared the following statement: 

“The result of this poll shines a spotlight on a fact that MBTA riders and Massachusetts residents have known for years: a reduced fare for MBTA riders is an absolute necessity. As the Massachusetts House of Representatives takes up this critical issue today, we hope that they will vote YES on Amendment #107 to H.4897, which would require the MBTA to offer discounted fares to riders who qualify, including the front-line, low-wage workers who use our public transit system to get to their jobs, to take their children to school and to access essential medical care and services. 

“With the Transportation Bond Bill, our elected leaders on Beacon Hill have the opportunity to address not only the MBTA safety crisis, but also the chronic and often invisible crisis of transit affordability. 

“Inflation is rising dramatically and far too many working families in our cities and communities are being left behind. Massachusetts continues to face a dramatic racial wealth gap, with families of color facing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment, as well as lower wages and food insecurity. The increasing costs of riding the MBTA mean many families are forced to choose between buying a T pass and other urgent needs, including groceries, rent, or utility bills. By listening to the needs of Massachusetts residents today, our legislature can take a huge step towards ensuring transit affordability.”

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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.

Public Transit Public Good coalition issues statement on Low-Income Fare bill

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MA – The following statement has been issued by the Public Transit Public Good coalition on ​​H.3526 An Act Relative to Low Income Transit Fares moving favorably out of committee:

“Our coalition is grateful to see the Joint Transportation Committee has unanimously and favorably advanced the important transit affordability legislation, H.3526 An Act Relative to Low-Income Fares. This urgently-needed bill would help ensure equity and affordability at the MBTA. Today, low-income riders and riders of color pay a larger share of their income toward fares than wealthy residents, and must work long hours to afford to ride. The low-income fare system is a step in the right direction to eradicate this inequitable system. With this bill, Massachusetts legislators have an opportunity to make affordable transit a reality for all riders. We look forward to seeing the House Committee on Ways and Means’ continued leadership on moving this bill forward. 

As this legislation advances, the MBTA Board can act now to advance a low-income fare pilot and assist struggling riders. A reduced-fare would save low-income riders an average of almost $500 per year.”

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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.

Public Transit Public Good Coalition Calls for Swift Action On Low-Income Fares

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Massachusetts — In the wake of today’s failure by the MBTA board to create a Low-Income Fare for MBTA riders, a popular proposal that garnered overwhelming support in public testimony, the Public Transit Public Good Coalition calls for swift action on providing a Low-Income Fare for MBTA riders.

Despite long-standing calls from environmental justice communities, labor groups and others for a low-income fare, the MBTA has refused to advance the Low-Income Fare program, citing budgetary constraints. The Public Transit Public Good Coalition calls on the MBTA to use a portion of the $500 million it recently reallocated for use on a range of one-time uses to fund a low-income fare pilot. We estimate a year-long pilot would cost $42 million dollars.

“The idea of a Low-Income Fare began for a simple reason: folks were struggling to pay the cost of riding,” said Collique Williams, an organizer with Public Transit Public Good Coalition, convened by Community Labor United, in his testimony to the Board. “The fare had gone up in 2012, in 2014, in 2016, and in 2019. People needed some help to pay the fare and some assurance that the spiraling costs would not continue. Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit, bringing new economic hardships and health risks. The power to bring riders relief lies here with this body.”

We know that T can afford a Low-Income Fare and it’s a matter of will to support the low-income riders who have been carrying the burden of T funding. We know that this board can make it happen,” said Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association, a member of the Public Transit Public Good Coalition, in her testimony to the Board. 

While delaying action on a low-income fare, the MBTA is rushing to a decision on a new $3 fee on the Charlie Card. The proposed surcharge is part of a move to the controversial, expensive, and much-delayed ‘automated fare collection’ system outsourced to billionaire corporations Cubic and John Laing. The MBTA is set to pay close to a billion dollars, including $288 million in profit and overhead, for this privatized fare collection system. 

“MBTA staff could not answer Board Chair Taylor’s question as to when the new fare collection technology is expected to come online,” said Williams. “Before deciding to impose new fees on riders, the MBTA should re-examine its fare collection contract, and adopt a Low-Income Fare that would save low-income people millions. We also call on the Massachusetts Legislature to advance legislation that would create a Low-Income Fare at the MBTA and provide assistance to RTAs to do the same.” 

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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.

Public Transit Public Good Coalition Condemns MBTA’s Proposal to Impose a $3 Surcharge on Charlie Cards

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MA – The following statement has been issued by the Public Transit Public Good coalition:

“This new surcharge of $3 for Charlie Card, proposed by MBTA staff at the Audit and Finance Subcommittee this morning, places an additional burden on low-income riders, while the corporations behind the new fare collection system will make more than $288 million in profits and overhead costs.  

MBTA fares already place a heavy burden on low-income riders, who make up about 40% of riders and pay more, as a percentage of household income, to ride the MBTA than wealthier riders. Most low-income riders have no access to discounted fares and would see their transportation costs escalate with a new surcharge. The impact would be especially bad for families who could no longer share a Charlie Card because the MBTA plans to require each rider to have their own pass. 

The $3 surcharge is part of a move to the controversial, expensive, and much-delayed  ‘automated fare collection’ system outsourced to billionaire corporations Cubic and John Laing. 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.’

To date, the MBTA has refused to provide relief to low-income riders, while paying close to a billion dollars, including $288 million in profit and overhead, to the wealthy corporations in charge of outsourced fare collection. Before raising fees on riders, the MBTA should re-examine its fare collection contract, and adopt a low-income fare that would save low-income people millions.” 

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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 to save up to $500/year with a low-income fare system, new report reveals

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According to the new report by PTPG Coalition, more than 90,000 riders to benefit if a low-income fare system is implemented by the MBTA

Massachusetts – Nearly 90,000 MBTA riders could save an average of almost $500 annually per rider if a low-income fare system is implemented, a new study by the Public Transit Public Good coalition reveals. This report comes on the heels of growing public opposition to MBTA’s recent failure to include a low-income fare in a new slate of fare changes. 

“The numbers from this report are clear — a low-income fare system would put money back in the pockets of Massachusetts riders and help our families in need,” said Sam Montaño, Director of Organizing, GreenRoots. “A low-income fare pilot program would cost about $42 million, around 2% of the operating budget. The MBTA can use one-time funds to run a year-long pilot program, and they must do this now, instead of ignoring the needs of our communities and MBTA riders.”

According to the report, the nearly $500 saved by each rider each year would give almost $50 million back to low-income families. These additional funds could be used towards groceries, home and personal services, clothes and shoes for growing youth, and co-pays for necessary medicines.

“$500 more will help me and others worry less about providing food for the household and paying rent as head of the house, and that is something for the MBTA administration and our legislators to think hard about,” said Emmanuell De Barros, Bus 93 and the Silver Line rider. “To think that I could save $500 more every year would change the way my family makes decisions. We won’t have to choose between cutting self-care, healthy foods, or house amenities like Wi-Fi speed, and taking the T to my job. We would be able to do both without cutting corners and compromising.”

Over the last few decades, the cost of the MBTA has been dramatically increasing, which has resulted in long working hours for riders to afford the MBTA. A minimum-wage worker has to work 75.8 hours per year to be able to afford monthly LinkPasses, per the recent report

“As a bus driver, my goal is to get the passengers from Point A to Point B safely and on time,” said Ed Cora, MBTA Bus Operator and Boston Carmen’s Union Member. “When my passengers get on, they tell me why they can’t pay the fare and I have heard a lot of stories. You know who gets on your bus when you live in the neighborhood. And you know these passengers are going through a difficult time. I feel that a lot of hard-working people have a hard time paying bills. I know a lot of families will benefit from the low-income fare.”

Bus and subway riders would save an average of $475 per year, while riders taking the commuter rail would save an average of $875 per year. Advocates also say that the significant savings to use the Commuter Rail could increase the number of overall trips, thus increasing MBTA ridership and revenue. Per the report, if a low-income fare induced a 5% increase in trips on the commuter rail, that would create $2.7 million in new fare revenues.

“A low-income fare system will not only help families but could possibly bring new revenue and new riders into our public transit system because people can afford to ride more, especially on the commuter rail,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15. “We know there are opportunities here to bring relief to our families, and both the MBTA Board and the legislature can take action now to provide that relief.”

Ahead of the MBTA Board meeting on Thursday, workers and riders are calling on the Board to move forward with a one-year pilot of the low-income fare.

According to the report, “The MBTA is considering using $500 million of ‘one-time funds’ – mostly federal aid – for ‘one-time spending.’ The MBTA Board should use a fraction of these funds to support a low-income fare pilot and assist struggling riders.” 

Coalition members are also urging the Massachusetts legislators to move quickly to pass H.3526, An Act Relative to Low-Income Fares. This important legislation would direct the MBTA to start a permanent discounted-fare program for low-income people.

It would also open a path for Regional Transit Authorities to institute reduced-fare programs or fare-free systems, extending the benefits of transit affordability to all corners of our Commonwealth. 

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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.