On Tuesday, February 7, more than 100 Somerville residents packed the community room at the Mystic Housing Development for a community meeting about the MBTA’s proposed fare increase and service cuts. The MBTA has put forward two proposals to fill a $160 million operating deficit for next year. One proposal includes increasing fares by as much as 43%, while the other would cut 101 weekday bus routes including the 80, 85, 90, 92, 95, and 96 in Somerville. Under both proposals, the MBTA would increase the cost of student and senior fares by 100%, while significantly increasing the cost of The Ride for disabled passengers. At the community meeting residents spoke out about the effect service cuts and increased fares would have on their ability to get to work and school. One resident explained that the 95 is the only bus that serves the Mystic Housing Development directly along Mystic Ave. “If they cut the 95, I’ll just have to walk all the way to [Bunker Hill Community College].” Groundwork Somerville Green Team member Sheina Joseph was concerned about the effect fare increases would have on her school and her family, “I get my bus pass for free through my school. If they raise the price, my school won’t have the money to buy it for students. If I don’t have my bus pass, it will cost me $5 just to get to work and back.”
Somerville residents face not only the prospect of increased fares and cuts to essential bus lines but also the burden of increased air pollution along Interstate 93. According to the MBTA’s own report, a fare increase and service cut would drive more people into their cars and lead to increased traffic and air pollution along major roadways which researchers at Tufts University say could lead to adverse health affects. With the delays to the Green Line Extension, Somerville residents already face heightened exposure to air pollution. Fare increases and service cuts will only worsen this situation. Many advocacy groups including the T Riders Union, Transportation for Massachusetts, and the On The Move Transportation Justice Coalition have also pointed out that the MBTA’s $160 million deficit is largely due to the $3.2 billion debt the MBTA carries as a result of projects required to offset the increase in air pollution resulting from the Big Dig.
Somerville came together to tell the state and the MBTA that enough is enough with delays to Green Line. Now we must come together to say NO to fare increases, NO to service cuts, and YES to healthy, sustainable transportation. The MBTA will be hosting a public meeting at Somerville High School at 6pm on Tuesday, February 28 to hear what Somerville residents have to say about the proposed fare increase and service cuts. A coalition of Somerville community groups including Groundwork Somerville, The Welcome Project, Somerville Community Corporation, and Occupy Somerville will be hosting a rally before the public meeting at 5:30pm on the lawn outside of the high school. Join us to tell the MBTA, our legislators, and the governor that quality public transit is a lifeline for Somerville residents and that we need a real, sustainable solution to public transit funding, not more air pollution, service cuts, and fare increases.