The MBTA, aka the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, is proposing two different price increases and significant service cuts to cut costs relative to the $161 million deficit for the fiscal year starting in July. The two potential plans would both involve hiking fairs for trains, busses, and commuter trains, while also featuring less stops for all forms of transportation. Both plans will feature tougher financial situations for those affected by the increases, such as students, middle/working class workers, lower class poor, as well as the elderly who choose not to drive. Although the deficit is significant and something has to be done about it, these changes translate to a form of oppression towards all those who have no say in the matter. There are more people taking the train and busses due to the city aspect of Boston, and this decision is crucial to a large population of the city. The people of Boston are retaliating through public rallies and voicing their opinions in gatherings with MBTA executives, so resistance is fierce and will not die down until a firm and final decision on the changes is made.
The social structure instituting these changes is the MBTA, and their deficit to the state is the driving force behind the potential planning to cut costs. Clearly the people of Boston, if not affiliated with the MBTA, have no real say in what happens. The subway rides would increase by $.70 per ride, and the busses $.50 from $1.25 to $1.75. (NECN.com) These changes would directly affect students who travel throughout the city from class, to work, home, and then repeat this most days if not all days of the week. It also directly affects the poor, who may not have vehicles and rely fully on public transportation to execute daily tasks. The elderly, who may have given up driving and take the train or busses, also will be affected directly by such changes. This shows three of the most vulnerable social classes in Boston and how they can essentially be manipulated at will because the MBTA dug them such a deep deficit and now have no other way to react. Their primary source of revenue is sales tax and rider fares, according to Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey.
“Our customers care; they’re passionate, and I think they have a good understanding of what the real challenge is, which isn’t an annual management crisis. It’s really a crisis of debt.” (Anderson, Boston Globe)
The MBTA has an outstanding $5.5 billion in principal on its debt, with over $1.7 billion from costs relative to the Big Dig. No matter how educated the riders and other citizens are on the current issue, it doesn’t change the fact that they are being oppressed with minimal opportunity for significant resistance. Mayor Thomas M. Menino commented on the issue at a public hearing hosted by the MBTA at Boston Public Library.
“For many people, the T isn’t their first or second transportation choice; it’s their only choice.” (Anderson, Globe)
The mayor also added how these changes will be harming the state’s most vulnerable residents and stifle economic growth. This is a harsh reality, and although some at this hearing said they will sacrifice higher pay to avoid service cuts, it is clear the method of gaining revenue is flawed for the MBTA. Relying on the sales tax is risky and Secretary Davey suggested a change in direct appropriation from the Legislature. He also added that a “roughly $20 Million surplus in the state’s snow-removal budget could be transferred to the MBTA if the weather holds off.” (Anderson, Globe)
This shows that if we can maintain good weather and save that budget, a small portion of the debt could be immediately eliminated and may be enough to stave off price increases, or at least make them more manageable. For now, protesting MBTA users are gathering at these public hearings as well as outside in public view to show their form of resistance. Denysha Jackson, 18, who attends Fenway High School attended a rally and voiced her opinion on how the changes would affect students. “I take the train every day, everywhere.” (Anderson, Globe) John Robinson, 63, of Somerville is vision impaired and relies on the commuter rail on weekends to visit his father at his assisted-living facility in West Concord. The proposed plan would eliminate weekend commuter rail services.
This is a clear, direct form of oppression and he is being dominated by a greater social institution that will most likely not hear his personal side of the story. The more people like John who step up at the public hearings, the better chance this resistance has of making any substantial noise. It will be tough to make a cost changing impact, yet the people must fight.