Over the past weeks, I have been studying the MBTA budget balancing proposals and hearing from many constituents about the proposals.
I’m planning to submit a letter to the T summarizing what I have heard. I thought I would post the draft here so that people could identify any concerns or solution ideas that I had failed to include.
You can comment here or, if you prefer, send an email to me at email@example.com or directly to Michael.Buckley@MASenate.gov who has been compiling input on this issue for me.
If you wish to comment, please do so before February 25. I will finalize the letter shortly after that.
Note: See also this post from me about the financial big picture of the MBTA, this Globe article about the T Debt and this collection of detailed information from the MBTA.
The text of the DRAFT letter appears below:
Dear Secretary Davey,
I write to you today in opposition to the MBTA’s proposed service cuts.
I have received hundreds of emails, phone calls, web posts, and petition signatures from constituents across my Senate district who oppose these proposals. During my district office hours, I have spoken to individuals of all ages and backgrounds who rely on local bus routes on a daily basis. My constituents are well-informed and have shared with me their insights, concerns, and solutions to the MBTA’s current financial crisis.
From Belmont to Brighton to Back Bay, bus routes must be protected for the public good and economic vitality. It must be our priority to maintain adequate transportation options for individuals to travel between neighboring communities and throughout the metropolitan region to access educational, employment, and cultural opportunities and also to patronize local business areas:
• Residents in Arlington, Watertown, Cambridge, and Belmont hope to see the 62, 76, 350, and 351 bus routes protected to maintain an affordable alternative to reaching suburban towns close to and beyond route 128.
• Brighton residents rely on the 501 and 503 express buses to get to downtown Boston.
• The 64 is one of the few routes between Brighton and Cambridge. It is the only accessible and convenient route for Oak Square residents, and it should be saved.
• The 74/75 and 78 buses provide essential commuting service for many Belmont and Arlington residents.
• Fenway and Back Bay residents utilize the 55 bus heavily.
• The 52 bus provides a connection used by many at the Perkins school for the blind.
Traffic would inevitably rise with fewer bus routes available and thus increase congestion while threatening air quality. For instance, consider the 78 bus route that travels between Arlmont Village and Harvard Station. Several constituents have approached me with concerns regarding the existing and consistent heavy traffic along this route, especially on Concord Avenue, Blanchard Road, and Brighton Street. In addition, existing overcrowded bus routes, such as the 57 utilized by Allston and Brighton residents, could be more heavily burdened by the rise in passengers based upon the lack of other alternative routes through these neighborhoods.
2011 MBTA ridership increased by 4.5 percent from the previous year as it climbed to 1.279 million passengers on an average weekday. A great demand exists and we must develop a sustainable fiscal solution. I look forward to working with you and my colleagues in state government to put public transportation on a track to financial stability for the long term.
While I will continue to urge short-term relief from the legislature, if that is not forthcoming, I reluctantly acknowledge the need for a 2013 fare increase in order to prevent the deeper service cuts proposed under scenario 2. However, we should try to protect the most vulnerable public transit users who already allocate a large portion of their personal budgets to fares. The fare increases for seniors and the disabled should be limited. Also, perhaps the MBTA could give Charlie Card discounts for persons who are participating in selected programs that are based on income eligibility or disability.
In order to generate additional revenue in the long term, I support a gas tax increase. 21 years have passed since we last increased the gas tax. I support allocating all gas tax revenues back to the region where they are raised. Consequently, residents on the Cape and in western Massachusetts would not be paying for the MBTA. As we look further into the future, I would support allocating additional general revenue funding to stabilize and strengthen transportation generally in our Commonwealth. State funds should be allocated first and foremost to restructure debt payments and improve maintenance.
Finally, I hope that you will not hesitate to advise the legislature of any areas in which you feel you need assistance in controlling costs.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns and these particular bus routes that are vital to my constituents and the economic vitality of the communities in my district. I look forward to working collaboratively with you on solutions. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly to discuss these ideas and concerns. I can be reached on my cell phone at 617-771-8274 and also at my State House office at 617-722-1280.
Note: This post is closed for additional comment, but please follow this link to share your views on how to address the MBTA’s challenges in our discussion forum.