A resounding “No!” was the word of the night on Tuesday evening in Mattapan. The word rang from every corner of the auditorium at Mildred Ave Community Center in Mattapan on Tuesday evening, scene of the latest public hearing on proposed fare increases and service cuts on the MBTA.
This was the ninth of at least 25 scheduled hearings in and around the T’s service area, and it drew riders, activists, and concerned citizens from far and wide, city neighborhoods and suburbs alike.
This afternoon and evening, (Feb. 2), two more hearings will be held at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.
“No one here enjoys making these cuts, which is why it is important to come up with solution that will make this easier on everyone,” said Jonathan Davis, the interim General Manager of the MBTA.
The T is facing drastic cost-cutting measures after struggling to close budget deficits in recent years. In 2013, this shortfall is projected to reach at least $161 million.
The two solutions proposed by the Department of Transportation are grim: Scenario 1 would hike fares and parking fees between 35 to 45 percent across the system, while slashing service for 9.6 million riders. Scenario 2 includes slightly cheaper fare increases— 23 to 39 percent— but requires far deeper service cuts that would discontinue service on at least 100 bus routes, and ultimately affect 38 million riders system wide. Both scenarios would eliminate all water ferry routes, along with weekend service on the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley and the E Branch of the Green Line. It would also cut weekend and late night service on the commuter rail lines, trigger the loss of 220 to 525 jobs among T staff and hit students and the elderly especially hard, with increases of 85 to 100 percent.
“The fare increases would cost me $1,000 a year,” said 18-year old Amatullah Marvin of Cambridge. As a freshman at Curry College, Marvin commutes to school and her two part-time jobs via the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley. “I can’t afford to put that much money into a deficit that someone else created.”
“I wouldn’t live where I live if it wasn’t for the Mattapan Trolley,” said Donna Dickerson of Milton. “I’m afraid that cutting the weekend service on the train is just the first step in totally eliminating it.”
Several speakers not only opposed service cuts, but also called for improvements in existing services. Just prior to the announcement of the service changes transit workers and local residents had been in the process of a transit study focused on improving service in the highly-trafficked Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods. A number of community members felt that the proposed cuts would disproportionately burden lower-income communities that depend on public transit.
“The reality is that this community is already underserved,” said City Councillor Charles Yancey. “These increases serve as a form of a very regressive tax, hitting the lower income communities hardest.”
“We should be asking for better service,” said Hewan Kassa, an activist from Dorchester. “The largest neighborhood in the city only has one subway line running through it and now they want to cut service. This is institutional racism.”
“I don’t believe that [DOT is] doing everything [it] can,” said Mattapan resident Carol Mallory-Causey, who rides the T daily. “What about cutting some [transit officials’] salaries? If everybody has to pitch in, that means everybody.”
Residents offered various alternative solutions and implored the elected officials present at the hearing to bring the protests and petitions to the legislature. DOT employees could offer little consolation, however. The MBTA board is scheduled vote on any changes in April, which will be enacted by July.
“I think we all recognize that we will have to make some difficult decisions,” said City Councillor Rob Consalvo, who represents Mattapan, Roslindale, Hyde Park and Readville. “I ask that the Department of Transportation recognize the special situation that the people of this city are in –people who have no other way to get to their jobs, school, or health care.”