FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 19, 2021
Contact on behalf of Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Orianna Tate, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-895-6783
U.S. Senator Warren, Representative Clark, State Senator Boncore Join Growing Opposition to the Unnecessary MBTA Cuts
Elected officials, riders and workers spoke at the Public Transit Public Good’s virtual rally to demand Baker-Polito Administration reverse MBTA cuts, especially since the agency will receive close to a billion dollars in new federal aid
BOSTON — U.S. Senator Warren, Representative Clark, and State Senator Joseph Boncore joined the voices of workers and riders during an online rally today, urging the Baker-Polito Administration and the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board to reverse deep service cuts, the most recent of which were phased in on Sunday.
“Despite the desperately needed funding, the MBTA instituted another round of deep service cuts this past Sunday, cutting bus times, increasing wait times between busses and subways, and making other changes that diminish the system we rely on,” said Collique Williams, Organizer, Community Labor United. “Our message today is that those funds must be used to restore full service now.”
“People throughout the Commonwealth who rely on public transportation are the very essential workers who have stepped up to help us during this public health crisis,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Despite the additional $1 billion in federal relief coming to Massachusetts in the American Rescue Plan, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service cuts have gone into effect. I will continue to fight with my partners in the delegation to ensure that the federal assistance Congress has provided will be used to completely restore all service cuts as soon as possible.”
“Today, we stand together to oppose the unfair and the unnecessary cuts at the MBTA,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark, via a pre-recorded video. “I have been proud to work with my colleagues in the Mass. Delegation to deliver significant emergency transit funding for the Commonwealth at this critical time. Since December, Congress has already secured over $250 million for the MBTA, and last week, we passed the American Recovery Plan, which will provide an additional $1 billion in transit funding for the Commonwealth. Yet, despite this infusion of funding, MBTA forges ahead with these cuts without explanation…We call on the MBTA to reverse these cuts to ensure that we can rebuild an economy that is equitable and inclusive for all.”
“Those who rely on public transit, from essential workers to frontline workers to individuals and families; we must affirm together that public transit is a public good,” said State Senator Joseph Boncore. “A reliable and affordable and an efficient public transportation system is essential to this Commonwealth’s health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Public Transit Public Good is calling on Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and the FMCB to use the nearly $1 billion the MBTA will receive from the American Rescue Plan to restore full service. Frequency cuts of up to 20% have reduced capacity on the MBTA’s Red, Orange, and Green lines and more than 20 bus routes, while several bus routes have also been eliminated. Because of the cuts, 40 commuter rail operators will lose their jobs, and it will be harder for frontline workers and other transit dependent people to get to their jobs, medical appointments, and more.
“Now, the MBTA is talking about layoffs for their workers, who came to work risking their lives and their family’s lives, by potentially bringing home the virus,” said William Foley, President, Local Lodge 264 Machinists Union. “What did they get in return? Being potentially laid off. This is 100% unacceptable. We deserve better and we demand better.”
The MBTA has received more than a billion dollars in federal aid money so far, and just last week President Biden signed a new historic aid package that will bring close to a billion more. Those federal funds are meant to help riders who depend on public transit now, protect the transit workers who get people where they need to go, and ensure the state’s buses, trains, and subways are there for Massachusetts residents as vaccination rates rise and ridership goes back up.
“I take the bus and subway to work at the Golden Age Center early in the morning and late at night. I take care of the elderly and they rely on me,” said Hui Qin Huang, Program Assistant at the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center. “Because of the service cuts, it has made an already long commute longer. I used to be able to catch the bus soon after I arrived at the bus stop. Now I have to wait half an hour. I didn’t know the service cuts were going into effect and I arrived late to work. This is harmful to my patients.”
“Our workers have been affected. We are wondering who is going to be next,” said Jim Evers, President, Carmen’s Union Local 589. “These cuts will increase crowding on our buses and on our trains. This causes a safety issue for the public and the transit workers. Overcrowding will remain an issue.”
“It has been clear to me from Day 1 that the workers’ interests, the riders’ interests are absolutely identical. You are us, we are you,” said Maureen Cawley, Chelsea resident and a rider of 112 bus. “The other point is that we have to stop them from…the atrocity of taking away services from the most vulnerable population in the epicenter of the COVID epidemic.”
“Today, we are here to make our voices here, to demand Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito and the FMCB reverse the cuts made to our MBTA,” said Amanda Chapin, Union Representative, TCU IAM Lodge 1089, and Division Chairperson of TCU IAM Unit 86. “The MBTA has made deep cuts to commuter rail service, cutting weekend service on a majority of lines, closing five stations, and reducing service overall by 14%. These cuts have made an impact on my colleagues, customer-service reps, store clerks, and other workers.”
The cuts are deeply unpopular. Hundreds of people have called Governor Baker’s office urging him to use the federal stimulus bill funds to roll back cuts, reinstitute full service, and support a reduced fare for low-income riders.
“Our patients and community members rely on public transportation for their medical appointments at DotHouse,” said Michelle Nadow, CEO, Dothouse Health. “The #18 bus stops right in front of our building and provides convenient access to our health center for our patients and staff. As of this week, the #18 bus has been suspended. These changes make it more difficult for our patients and cut access to our food pantry, COVID-19 Testing Unit, COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, and other important healthcare and social services. All needed services and even more vital during the COVID 19 pandemic. We hope that the decision-makers can hear our demands and make the necessary changes to resolve these rising issues.”
“These service cuts don’t just harm riders today, they pose a grave risk to our future,” said Jarred Johnson, Executive Director, TransitMatters. “These cuts, happening as the Commonwealth opens up businesses, attempts to speed up vaccinations, send the wrong signal. The cuts tell riders that their needs don’t matter and political posturing is more important than providing access to low-income riders, seniors, young people, essential workers, and more. It’s disappointing to see the MBTA appropriating the language of equity to tell environmental justice communities ‘be happy we didn’t cut your service as much’ meanwhile, the cuts restrict access for those without vehicles. These cuts run the risk of dampening demand, giving the T another excuse to cut service in the future. We, at the Transit Is Essential campaign, say “Stop Balancing The Budget On The Backs Of Riders” and that Public Transit Is A Public Good. Reverse these cuts and put the people’s money into running service for them today!”
Public Transit Public Good is also calling on Governor Baker and the MBTA to support a reduced fare for low-income riders. Given the unemployment and economic hardship of the past year, helping those who need it most is the right thing to do. The state’s economic recovery will be robust when all of us can afford to travel for work, errands, and medical care.
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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.