Roxbury, July 31 – Proposed MBTA fare increases are exorbitant, unwise, and unfair, and probably illegal. That was the prevailing opinion at the quarterly meeting of the T Riders Union (TRU) which took place July 31 at the Dudley Library in Roxbury. A group of about 45 TRU members and local citizens vowed to resist the impending MBTA January 2004 fare increases which will be as much as 25% for the T and 33% for buses.
Khalida Smalls of Alternatives to Community Education (ACE), began the meeting with a quick overview of why the fare increases are unfair and will fall unjustly on low-income, transit-dependant riders. If, as the MBTA claims, ridership on the T is indeed decreasing, then raising the fares only puts a larger burden on fewer people, namely those without the option of driving to work.
Those living in low-income, low-car ownership areas are already receiving the poorest public transportation in the city. A clear example is the Washington Street Corridor of Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester which is home to 25% of the city’s population but has no rapid-transit system; relying instead on unreliable, overcrowded buses.
ACE organizer Dave Pedulla outlined the likely effects the fare increase will have on Boston’s air quality. Obviously as fares go up, those with cars will be more prone to driving instead of taking the T. This will lead to traffic congestion and only worsen Boston’s air which is already the 7th worst in the country.
The low-income communities of color, such as the Washington Street Corridor, deal daily with very high levels of pollution, made evident by asthma rates six times higher than the state average. Idling diesel buses do little to help the air quality. The need for light-rail service (rather than the Silver Line bus system) to the down-town area was echoed time and time again throughout the night.
Another issue touched upon during the meeting was how to get MBTA statistical information disclosed to the public. Current law states that fares may not be raised if ridership has fallen more than 4% in the past 12 month. While the MBTA claims that only a 3% drop has taken place, it has so far refused to show to the public data or numbers to back up its assertion. These ridership numbers are essential for the T Riders Union’s argument that the MBTA is working against the law by raising fares. But when the T Riders Union requested this vital information, it was told the data would cost in the area of $280,000. All T Riders Union members and citizens are encouraged to attend the MBTA board meeting taking place August 7th at 1 PM in the State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, in order to lobby for full disclosure of information.
The meeting ended with the entire group brainstorming for ways to resist the fare increase. Voiced ideas included sending in a flood of complaint cards, a continued presence at MBTA board meetings, boycotts, and protests. A consensus was made to pursue the idea of a one or two-day boycott. However, another meeting will be needed to iron out details and work on an out-reach plan to ensure the boycott is well publicized. This next meeting of the T Riders Union is scheduled for Thursday, August 7th at 6PM in the Dudley Library. All are welcome.