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