Public Transit for the Public Good!

July 8, 2019

Updates on the MBTA and Transit Organizing

Since most of us rely on public transit to get to work, go to school, buy groceries and see the doctor, we believe it is important to organize for a well-funded transit system that is accountable to working class communities.  Currently, many of our members who rely on bus service, cannot adequately get to and from home particularly residents in Malden and Charlestown. If you have a problem with public transit service and want to do something about it, get in contact with CPA and get involved in the campaign!

There are important changes the MBTA is making and actions CPA and the Green Justice Coalition is taking to address them.  Read below to learn more:

Raising Fares

The MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board voted this year to raise fares 6% starting July 1.  Riding the subway one-way will now be $2.40, a 15 cent increase and a monthly pass will cost $90, a $5.50 increase.  Originally, the MBTA proposed more fare increases, but after organizing by riders and advocates, bus, student and elderly fares will not be increased.

Fair Fares?

After organizing by the Green Justice Coalition, we were able to pass legislation to cap fare increases to 7% every two years in 2016.  While we stopped exorbitant increases, the cost of living has skyrocketed in the Greater Boston area, especially the cost of housing. This has particularly impacted working class and people of color who are being pushed farther away from the city.  This makes us even more reliant on a public transportation system that we increasingly cannot afford. The Green Justice Coalition is proposing a low-income rider pass, similar to the one afforded to students and seniors.

Investing in Public Transit

While keeping fares affordable is extremely important, so is ensuring good service.  While the Governor has pursued a strategy of privatization and no new funding for the MBTA, we believe that we need to adequately fund public transportation to ensure we have the transit system we deserve.  Currently, 20% ($8 billion in 2015) of the MBTA budget is paying off debt from the Big Dig project that benefited car drivers. At the same time the MBTA estimates it will take them 15 to 25 years to make all the needed repairs to the system.

There are at least two opportunities to address funding for public transportation while also addressing climate change and economic inequality.  The Fair Share Amendment would increase taxes on millionaires in Massachusetts to generate a projected $1 billion for transportation and education.  If the state legislature approves the amendment, it can be placed on the 2022 ballot for Massachusetts voters to decide on. The Transportation and Climate Initiative is an agreement between 9 northeastern states to tax greenhouse gas emissions.  This could create $150 million to $500 million in revenue. We need to ensure this possible revenue serves low-income residents and any new tax doesn’t hurt us as well.

Cashless System?

The MBTA plans to eliminate cash payment on buses and the green line beginning in 2020.  The MBTA signed a $723 million with a private corporation, Cubic, to install a new card system.  While the new system will allow people to use their smart phones instead of a card, there are serious questions if this will leave behind people without smartphones or rely on being able to pay cash  We need to ensure an equitable implementation of the system including the placements of new machines where people can reload money onto their cards. The new system will people to board a bus or train from front and the back, but the MBTA plans to also hire more staff to deal with fare evasion.  We need to make sure that this system does not unfairly punish people of color and low-income riders.