Commuters: MBTA needs more bilingual employees (Jan 2007)
by christina wallace / metro boston
JAN 4, 2007
BOSTON — MBTA rider advocacy groups and some frustrated commuters are claiming the T needs more bilingual employees to help non-English speaking riders confused by the new fare structure.
According to officials from the T Riders’ Union, the organization has received numerous phone calls from Spanish-speaking commuters in East Boston and Chelsea who are puzzled by the new fare increase and have been given little help from T employees.
“The MBTA doesn’t have the right personnel in those areas to orient people and give advice,” said Rene Mardones, an official with the union.
Mardones claims a member of the organization went down to Maverick Station in East Boston last month to inquire about more bilingual assistance, and a T employee responded by saying, ‘They should learn to speak English.’
“The MBTA needs to understand its consumers, and invest in its ridership by having more bilingual staff,” said Mardones, who added a complaint was filed with the T customer service department.
MBTA spokeswoman Lydia Rivera said the T is aware of the complaint, but the encounter is “unconfirmed” at this point. An investigation is ensuing, she said.
According to Rivera, the T has made a concerted effort to reach out to non-English speaking riders by printing CharlieCard and fare information in eight languages, including Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese. The CharlieCard vending machines instruct customers in three languages, including Spanish and Chinese, and bilingual employees have been assigned to certain stations when possible. Due to union-related constraints, T management cannot always switch employees’ job locations, Rivera said.
“We have bilingual employees out there, but a lot of work here is union-based and we can’t order bilingual employees to go to certain stations because it is slated under their contract,” Rivera said.