IS THERE AN OPTION THREE, MBTA?

James Shearer
Spare Change News

In my last column I spoke of the fare increases on the MBTA, which take effect in July. Even though I wrote that the increases and service cuts were unfair, I thought to myself later that if I’m wrong about all of this and it’s not that bad, I would apologize.

Well I’m here to do just that. It’s really not that bad, folks: It’s worse.

I was looking through the booklet detailing both increase scenarios that T employees were handing out a couple of weeks ago — with smiles on their faces, hoping that the rest of us would throw the damn things in the trash and ignore the bill of goods they were trying to shove down our throats — and that’s just what it is folks, a very nasty bill of goods.

I’ll give you the cliff notes, the rest I invite you to check it out at the MBTA website, www.MBTA.com.

In the beginning of the proposal, the T gives its reasons why they basically need to play the greedy landlord. Some of it makes a little sense like the Forward Funding sales tax, which is actually supposed to help the T out, but has done nothing of the kind.

We can thank the State House for that. The Forward Funding sales tax was a product of the 2000 state Legislature. Think about that when you’re shelling out nearly three bucks to take a train or bus to the ballot box in November.

After justifying their reasons for this crackpot proposal, you get to the meat and potatoes of this thing.

In scenario 1 there is the expected increases on both subway and bus; local bus goes up to $1.75 and subway $2.40, that’s with the Charlie card. Without the Charlie Card, $2.25 and $3, respectively.

Parking, the Ride, commuter rail, and passes go up significantly as well. The Senior Tap (reduced fares for seniors and persons with disabilities) and student passes double from $20 to $40 per month.

While I feel this whole thing is insane, I practically feel disdain for the T when I see the increase for the Tap passes and The Ride (which goes from $2 to $4.50 for the ADA service area, and $2 to $12 in premium service areas). Many seniors and people with disabilities rely on the Ride to get to and from medical appointments, not to mention the fact that many are on a fixed income and $40 a month is a little much to ask for people who are struggling to put food on the table and need cash to buy medication.

Also, in either scenario, the E line and all ferry service … GONE. How will people who need to get to work from say Hingham to Boston without the ferry? It makes a hard time getting to work a lot easier, and the traffic tie-ups will be monstrous.

And the E line just so happens to be the only subway train that goes to the Longwood Medical Area, where Children’s, Brigham and Women’s, Beth Israel hospitals and Joslin Clinic are located. WHY WOULD YOU CUT SERVICES TO MAJOR HOSPTIALS? Yes, I know there are bus alternatives. But not everyone has access to those buses.

Also, in both scenarios, commuter rail services are severely slashed. Trains will run until 10 p.m. on weekdays and there will be no service on weekends. So much for people who work nights, and tourism.

The Mattapan Trolley gets the boot. If there are any positives to take from scenario 1, it’s that it’s better than 2 as far as cuts in services are concerned. The price increase in scenario 2 are slightly more modest with the exception of the Ride, Commuter Rail and Ferry cuts, and the Senior and student passes which remain pretty much the same. But in scenario 1, only 23 weekday bus routes are cut along with 39 on weekends.

Meanwhile, in scenario 2 102 (don’t adjust your glasses, you read that right), 102 bus routes will be cut all day every day, and nearly every major bus route you can think of will be gone, routes that take us to work, shopping, medical appointments, etc.

There are also cutbacks in suburban and private carrier bus routes, that will affect people who go beyond Waltham, Watertown, Walpole, Weymouth, and West Medford. Out on the North Shore weekend buses will no longer go to Wonderland in Revere, meaning that people who want to travel to Boston will have to pay nearly close to $5 because the cheaper, faster Commuter Rail will no longer run on the weekends.

In short, Scenario 2 will cripple the Greater Boston area and beyond. And no doubt the greedy barons at the T are counting on you seeing that and panic-stricken, you will support the more expensive Scenario 1 option, either that or force the state to step in. Either way they have us right where they want us. Or do they?

So far in public meetings, the T management has been met with outrage. People are organizing and fighting back, and you know maybe this time the people will win. Stay tuned.

JAMES SHEARER is board president and a co-founder of Spare Change News.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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