Protesters Rally Against MBTA Cuts, Pack Meeting
More than 400 people turned out for the MBTA public hearing Monday.
The proposed MBTA fare hikes fall disproportionally on the elderly, disabled, student and low income population, many people said at a packed-to-capacity public hearing Monday night.
Following an Occupy Boston rally at Copley Square hundreds of people - many of them college students - flowed into the Boston Public Library. They filled the 342-seat auditorium and 110-seat overflow room by 6:05 p.m.
"Some people got here at 4:30," a library worker said.
Officials began turning away at least 100 people lined up inside the foyer, and promised to add more public hearings to the already lengthy list.
"If we try to raise the fare the way we are now, there won't be more money," said Back Bay resident Elliot Laffer. "There will be a failed transit system and failed economy."
He was one of more than 70 people who vocalized their opposition to, as woman put it, "two rotten proposals" laid out by the MBTA to solve a $161 million deficit.
Both scenarios include increased fares and service cuts, especially to suburban bus routes, the Commuter Rail, ferries and THE RIDE.
Under the proposal, there are two scenarios – the first would include a fare increase of 43 percent, and the second a spike of 35 percent. Both scenarios would mean cuts or eliminations to commuter rail services. Those cuts could include elimination of commuter rail services after 10 p.m. during the week and completely on the weekend.
Impacts on Westwood
According to Steve Olanoff, Westwood Planning Board Vice Chairman and the town's designee on the MBTA advisory board, cuts in service would have a dramatic effect on vehicular traffic, as well as on the potential development at Westwood Station.
"The way our traffic is now, all it takes is a few more cars for traffic to go from slow to a standstill," Olanoff told Westwood Patch. "And that's what's going to happen. There are people that don't have a choice. There are plenty of people like that."
Likewise the potential hike in fares are unfavorable. Mike Bowler of Westwood, who commutes daily into Boston via the Rte. 128 Station, said a monthly Zone 2 pass from Rte. 128 Station averages around $151 per month, he said, and adding to that the $5 cost to park each day.
"A 30 percent increase in the monthly commuter rail pass would increase the total cost to $296, and at 50 percent it would total $326 per month," he said. "At these levels I think many more people would drive in to town."
Finding more money
Others, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino in his opening speech at Monday's meeting, called for increased revenue.
"For too long, they've tried a Band-Aid approach," he said about the MBTA. "You can't do reconstructive surgery with a first-aid kit."
A few people suggested raising the gas tax - which hasn't increased in 21 years - and called on legislators to increase funding and remove existing debt.
"There's $2 billion of debt that comes from the Big Dig, said David, a Jamaica Plain resident. "There's no reason the Big Dig debt should be on the MBTA books at all."
Another man pointed to major, tax-exempt corporations in the city, saying the revenue is there, it's just a matter of where it's coming from.
"Your going after the poor," he said. "They’re already poor. You can't get blood out of a stone."
The MBTA is holding many public hearings throughout the Boston region over the next two months. Comments will be considered when deciding the final proposal.
You can also contact the MBTA directly by emailing email@example.com or calling 617-222-5200.