The MBTA is broke – and, for that matter, broken. According to the MBTA, it is facing a $161 million dollar budget gap. So bad is the MBTA’s financial situation that, last year, it resorted to using hairnets to protect subway motors.
Last week, the MBTA demonstrated its commitment to addressing a chronic lack of funding for public transportation by proposing two scenarios that are as narrow as they are unfair. In its attempt to close its funding gap, the MBTA has painted a bleak future for transportation users – especially bus riders. The public is justifiably upset by this news. Not only is the agency proposing to increase fares, but cut service all around.
One scenario, dubbed Scenario 2, proposes a fare increase of 35% (compared to 43% in Scenario 1) and is accompanied by drastic service cuts to all modes of transportation. (Scenario 1 also involves service cuts, though less drastic.) All ferry routes will be eliminated. Commuter rail service after 10 pm and weekend service will be eliminated. The E line (on the Green line) and Mattapan Trolley will both cease to run on the weekends. The most severe cuts, however, affect bus services.
Richard Davey, Secretary of MassDOT, explains that they “are looking at some underutilized service. [They] have some suburban bus carriers that are not well utilized.” In reality, however, Scenario 2 completely eliminates 101 bus routes. Not just during off-peak hours. These bus routes will cease to exist!
I’m not sure “some” is the best word to describe 101 bus routes, listed and illustrated on the map here from a CTPS Report produced for the MBTA. The routes depicted in red will no longer be served if Scenario 2 is passed. The blue routes, which are sparse in comparison, will be maintained. The bus routes to be eliminated are urban and suburban.
I am shocked to see how many bus routes are proposed to be cut and how pervasive the cuts are.
To be fair, the MBTA’s situation is difficult. As CLF and Transportation for Massachusetts said in a statement last week, “any fare increase should be part of a comprehensive financial plan that addresses not only the MBTA’s operating deficit for at least the next several years, but also provides the funds needed to address the T’s maintenance and capital needs without further driving up debt service costs.” Last year, CLF convened a group of national and local transportation finance experts and they came up with a menu of solutions, the Governor and the Legislature could pick from. We need a plan that solves the whole problem, not one that makes it impossible for people to get to work, school, or the doctor.
Under the current proposals, millions of riders will be forced to drive to work or drive to the nearest transit stop. Others who depend on the bus may be less fortunate. Scenario 2 is predicted to impact 38.1 million riders. Will you be one of them?