For Immediate Release:
Monday, January 25, 2021

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

Labor, Community Groups To Baker-Polito Administration: Stop Damaging MBTA System

Transit coalition demands use of millions in federal funds earmarked for the state for reversal of planned service cuts

BOSTON — Transit riders and workers from the Public Transit Public Good Coalition took a stand at Monday’s meeting of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board to oppose the package of drastic service cuts previously approved by the board and blessed by the Baker-Polito administration.

“During this pandemic, we should be supporting our communities of color and low-income communities. Instead, they support measures that harm our people and restrict access to our public transit system,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director, Community Labor United. Community Labor United convenes the Public Transit Public Good coalition

Community and labor groups urged FMCB members at today’s virtual meeting to reverse their march to impose widespread cuts to bus, train, ferry, and commuter rail services. The FMCB approved those cuts in December over widespread opposition and despite a report from the MBTA Advisory Board finding that  “no budgetary justification to cut so much public transportation service at this time.” The MBTA Advisory Board is the public oversight group representing the municipalities who are served by the T and help fund it. 

The MBTA is set to receive several hundred million dollars from the federal COVID-19 relief package – the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) – passed by Congress last month. However, T management and the Baker-Polito administration still plan to move forward with the majority — though not all — of their recently approved service cuts. Such shortsighted action would bring unnecessary harm to the agency and the state’s fledgling recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The MBTA plans to keep most of the cuts in place for at least the next few months even though it will be getting an injection of at least $250 million from the latest federal stimulus package. Agency officials decided instead to revive some paused capital projects and set a chunk of money aside to help restore service at a later, still-uncertain date. Governor Baker has defended the service cuts and said he’s against running trains and buses at pre-COVID levels due to reduced ridership, a policy the New York Times editorial board recently called ”small-minded and short-sighted.”

“We, the employees of the MBTA, are willing to work with management to find innovative ways to reduce costs while preserving services and protecting jobs,” said Jim Evers, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union. “Drivers are willing to work with the MBTA on tactics to quickly restore service as ridership returns. But the best way to restore service to a route is to not cut the route to begin with.”

“The board runs the risk of ramming through these cuts without knowing the full impact of what it will mean for the public,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative, Machinist Union District 15. “The MBTA risks making permanent cuts that could be devastating to the people and businesses that rely on public transit the most.”

Speakers also denounced Governor Baker’s decision to strike down a new legislative mandate requiring the MBTA to offer a low-income fare program

“Neighborhoods like Dorchester, Roxbury, Chinatown, Malden, Quincy, and Mattapan are home to thousands of workers whose jobs can’t be done from home, and are essential workers,” said Mark Liu, Operations and Development Director of the Chinese Progressive Association. “But they continue to make low wages and face greater workplace risks than ever. These are health care, restaurant, maintenance, and other workers who still commute every day. Many others have lost their jobs due to COVID. No one should not have to choose between paying for transit or paying for rent, food or childcare. The Legislature was right to pass the low-income fare.The Baker-Polito administration veto is a blow to Commonwealth residents who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Several coalition members said they hoped the FMCB would continue their advocacy for a low income fare program, as well as use new revenues to minimize and roll back cuts. The Coalition believes the MBTA should receive increased funding from progressive revenues such as an increase in the corporate income tax, in addition to using the expected CRRSAA federal aid – a follow-up to the broader CARES Act that provided – to offset the T’s projected budget shortfall. 

Changes to commuter rail and ferry service took effect on Saturday. In addition to the COVID relief bill approved by Congress last month, President Joe Biden has proposed another disaster relief bill containing another $20 billion earmarked for transit authorities. While passage is far from assured, it gives additional reasons for the FMCB and the Baker-Polito administration to reconsider slashing T service and jobs. 

“Eliminating or slashing service will only deepen existing inequities, and slow the region’s recovery by blocking access to jobs for people who cannot get to work without transit,” said Steve Tolman, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “All of our communities deserve access to an equitable, and accessible transit system. But by barreling ahead with these service and job  cuts, the Board is ignoring the needs of those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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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.