The results are in: MBTA riders communicated with the agency nearly 8,000 times over the last two months and, according to a partial review, nearly all of the comments contained pleas to save service – bus, rail and ferry – from the budget knife.
While it’s devising a final plan, the MBTA had offered two proposals to close an estimated $159 million budget gap next fiscal year – one that would raise fares by 43 percent and include modest service cuts, and the other that would raise fares 35 percent but include much deeper cuts to services. In letters, emails and comments at more than two dozen public meetings, T riders primarily focused their ire on a proposal by the agency to slash weekend and nighttime commuter rail service, dozens of bus routes and ferry service to and from the South Shore.
After more than two dozen hearings completed from January to March, the MBTA has collected a combined 7,991 emails, letters and comments. Although they’re not scientific, the MBTA broke down the emails from customers to determine general trends in the substance of customer comments. Among the findings:
-- More than half of 5,783 emails came from bus customers, and four-fifths opposed service cuts, while about a quarter of the email comments rejected fare increases;
-- 10 percent of emails included support for fare increases proposed by the T;
-- 60 percent of email comments requested that the T maintain bus service, while 21 percent called to protect commuter rail service and 17 percent called to protect ferry service;
-- The MBTA received petitions with more than 15,000 signatures from people opposing elimination of nighttime and weekend commuter rail and 5,000 signatures from people opposing ferry cuts;
-- More than 240 letters came from riders, while 50 came from elected officials, 100 came from organizations;
-- No letters supported any aspects of the service cuts.