To the Editor: We need to speak up on T fare hikes

To the Editor:

Friday (Feb. 12) is the deadline for public comment on the MBTA’s two options to increase fares. I urge Reporter readers to speak up.
An affordable and accessible public transportation system is a measure of equity in a community. Without it, some can’t get to work, appointments, grocery stores, church, parent-teacher conferences, community meetings, etc. Many residents in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury don’t wake up on a snowy morning and decide to leave the car in the driveway and take the T in. Why not? Because they can’t afford to own a car. And, on those snowy mornings, they may not be given the option to work from home.

As an active T user and a person “in the know,” I heard about the meetings on the day of the first session. I saw floor-level sandwich boards at Ashmont, Forest Hills, and Park Street stations, but nothing at Mattapan station or any of the bus stop shelters.

But the boards weren’t very helpful. While the information was printed in seven languages, it directed you to the MBTA website or a number to call to access the schedule. Why didn’t the MBTA just post the meeting schedule on the same sandwich board? If you don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, or assurance that when you call someone on the other end speaks Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Spanish, etc., you’re pretty much left out of the public process.

I attended a morning session last week where the MBTA’s Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve gave an overview of the agency’s financial shortfalls and the reasoning behind the need to raise fares. He spoke quickly, showed slides, and used the word “affordable” on more than one occasion to describe the proposed increases.

Affordable to whom? Maybe, he was thinking about commuter rail riders, the group least impacted (from no increase in some zones to a maximum of 10 percent). Mr. Shortsleeve definitely wasn’t thinking of students. Their weekly passes may increase 23 percent. If successful, the increases are scheduled to occur on July 1, right when our youth rely so heavily on the T to make it to their summer jobs. So much of Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition’s summer programs are youth-led. If the youth can’t afford to ride the T, the success of our mobile farm stand and farmer’s market will be affected.

Much emphasis was given to the use of monthly passes. Riders on “my” routes can’t afford monthly passes and use either a weekly pass or pay the most expensive, individual fare. Seniors and persons with disabilities who use The Ride will also be impacted greatly. They live on very fixed incomes and a rate increase of 15- or 25-cents/ride will affect their quality of life.

Please call 617-222-3200 or e-mail to ask the MBTA Fiscal Control Board for no increase, or no more than a 5 percent increase.

Vivian Ortiz