Proposed MBTA budget cuts threaten commuters

by Frankie Olito / Beacon Staff • January 19, 2012

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The MBTA has proposed cuts to transit lines that have the potential to affect Emerson commuters
The MBTA has proposed cuts to transit lines that have the potential to affect Emerson commuters

The MBTA began hosting public meetings Tuesday around the Boston area to discuss a proposed fare hike of up to 70 cents and cutbacks on weekend services on the Green Line, commuter rail, and buses.

Transportation officials said the two proposals -— the first price increase in more than five years -—  are intended to chip away at the MBTA’s $5.2 billion debt, the steepest deficit of any city transit system in the country.

Officials said the plans’ details are open to debate at citywide public meetings scheduled today at Roxbury Community College and Monday at the T’s headquarters one floor above City Place.

Both plans would eliminate weekend service of the E train on the Green Line and the commuter rail. Service for all lines will end at 10 p.m. on weeknights.

“The proposals we put out have been in the works for months,”  said Richard A. Davey, secretary of the transportation department in a statement to The Boston Globe. 

“These are not easy choices, in fact painful choices.”

These proposals have caused anger among the many potentially affected commuters, and some students took plan to protest.

Freshman Zach Tucker has taken action against the MBTA by creating “Students Against T Cuts,” a group against the new changes.

“It’s about looking out for the entire community and looking out for everyone as a whole,” the BFA stage and production management major said.“This is about trying to educate people that these changes are coming.”

As of yesterday, the Facebook page has 360 “likes,” and the group’s Twitter account has 208 followers as of Wednesday night.

While the group’s main goal is to prevent the cuts from happening, Tucker said that overtime he wants to change the way the legislature funds the MBTA. 

“We wish to achieve transportation funding reform in the state,” he said.

Tucker said cutting the E line would be most harmful to the Emerson community, as many commuter students rely on it for transportation. Tucker also drew attention to the major cultural stops along this line, like the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall. 

The proposed cuts to the E line also threaten Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Wentworth Institute of Technology. students, as the college is located along the rail line. 

“Best case scenario, people are inconvenienced, and at it’s worse, the economy weakens,” Tucker said. “It’s a crapshoot [as to] how this can go.”

Abigail Lewis,  a junior visual and media arts major who lives near the Prudential Center T stop said this change will negatively effect her since she takes the T to class four times a week.

“A big reason why we moved into the apartment building that we did was because of how close to a T stop we were, and therefore how easily we could get to class in the morning. So if they were to cancel the service, it would make it more difficult,” Lewis said.

Like Lewis, Mia Germain, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major, lives along the E line at the Mission Hill stop.

“I use the T every day at least five times a day,” Germain said. “I work one job at a bar that is on the E line and another in Dorchester, so if the E line were cut, I would have some serious troubles.” 

In response to these effects, Tucker said he attended the MBTA meetings in Newton on Tuesday night.

“There were over 85 people at the meeting registered to speak, probably double that just to watch. Each person spoke of how they would be personally affected by the cuts,” he said. “I will be attending and live tweeting the Roxbury meeting with a group of Northeastern students Thursday night.”

A final budget proposal is expected to be made by April and will go into effect with the new fiscal year on July 1, said Davey.

The MBTA will be holding over 20 hearings around Massachusetts over the next 60 days to discuss the changes.