October 24, 2008
The Town Meeting on Public Transportation this Wednesday, sponsored by On the Move (OTM): The Greater Boston Transportation Justice Coalition, addressed issues of the MBTA’s staggering debt. The coalition consists of Boston-based community organizations , including TRU, that have been working together since 2000 for environmentally friendly, reliable public transit that is committed to first class service for all neighborhoods.
Right now OTM is working on legislation that would relieve the T of the $1.8 billion debt that resulted from the Big Dig. This debt originated when Massachusetts was required to improve public transportation to counter the increase in air pollution and traffic congestion the Big Dig caused. The T, a separate entity that is still part of the state government, was given the debt burden by the legislature without adequate funding to pay the debt.
This year the $444 million annual debt payment will be passed on to riders, as it has been since 2000 through a series of fare increases. Another may be announced as early as summer 2009 if the state doesn’t take back the Big Dig debt. The T already has the largest principal debt of any public transportation agency in the country at $5.2 billion, which translates into $8.1 billion with interest.
OTM predicted that the T’s mammoth debt could result in hardships for those who depend on public transit, such as a 50 percent cut in weekend and evening service, elimination of up to 20 bus routes and wide scale layoff of T employees – including large fare increases.
The T "bail out" plan could potentially free up $117 million annually for use in improving the quality and frequency of service. Other revenue generating suggestions included initiating a gas tax increase with the proceeds going directly to the T or a higher sales tax. (The T currently receives 20 percent of the state sales tax.) Either tax, however, would put more stress on lower income communities who are already burdened by high prices and a failing economy.
To help relieve the T's debt burden and ease the strain on riders, contact your state legislators and Governor Patrick (617-725-4005) and ask them to support MBTA debt relief. We are also asking supporters to sign postcards to the Governor. Please mail postcards to ACE so we can collect and deliver them together for maximum impact. Thank you!