Fighting fare increases for 2016

November 24, 2015

It's that time of year again - MassDOT is beginning to prepare the 2016-2017 MBTA budget. Until recently, this carried the threat of massive fare increases to deal with the T's ever-worsening fiscal crisis. In 2013, we won a provision in transportation legislation limiting fare hikes to no more than five percent every two years. By this measure, there would be a possible five percent increase in 2016.

However, some legislators, transit officials and Governor Baker's Fiscal and Management Control Board are now debating whether the law permits a 10 percent fare increase instead. As if this wasn't bad enough, some even want to raise prices on our paratransit system THE RIDE, bringing the cost of a one-way trip from $3 to $4.20, the highest fare allowable under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"As a T rider, I've experienced two fare hikes that have impacted my daily life," said Emmanuell de Barros, TRU intern, at a MassDOT board meeting in November. "Sometimes I would have to walk to school or work due to the cost, or because of inadequate service."

Unfortunately, service cuts - not improvements - are high on the Control Board's agenda. For example, bus trips used by some of the most vulnerable riders could be slashed, with the remainder being transferred to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft (with documented worker exploitation issues). This circumvents union jobs and moves us closer to privatization - even though corporations like Keolis have failed to provide better service at a lower cost to the state.

Despite the need to close the MBTA's $242 million budget gap and fund the more than $7.3 billion in backlogged repairs, Governor Baker is promoting the same "reform before revenue" fallacy that has precipitated the dire straights our transit system is in today. Our governor and legislators seem to prefer debating fare hikes in place of alloting the $261 million granted to the agency for the 2016-2017 fiscal year by the 2013 Transportation Investment Act.

"We need to be looking at real solutions instead of backtracking on the ones riders won in 2013 - and that includes capping fare hikes at five percent every two years and investing in the system," said Emmanuell.

Fare hikes and services cuts are not the answer to balancing the T's budget. No fare increase would be enough to cover the more than $9 billion in debt and bring the system into a state of good repair. We believe that a fare increase of any amount is too much when riders are already struggling to with the costs of getting to work, education, healthcare and other necessities. The T needs to be relieved of the Big Dig Debt and allocated a sustainable source of funding to provide the affordable, quality service that we need.

Join us to fight for real solutions for the T! Testify with TRU at MassDOT Fiscal and Management Control Board meetings on November 30 and December 9. We are expecting fare hike proposals to be unveiled by January 6, with a board vote in February. Learn more at our next TRU member meeting and sign up to join us for outreach! For more information, contact Caroline.  

Health centers supporting transit justice

November 24, 2015

Since the fall of 2014, ACE and our partners in the On The Move coalition have been working with community health centers in Boston to explore the connection between health and public transportation. As part of this process, health professionals recognized that better transit service would improve patient access to healthcare.

"The transit justice collaboration with ACE was transformative for our Health Center. Our partnership opened a new space to combine organizing, public health, racial justice language and values that was powerful and shared," said Abigail Ortiz, Director of Community Health Programs at the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center. "Focusing the goals of the project on the extensive transit organizing done by ACE and its members, rather than re-creating new ones, gave our health center clarity about how we can be most effective in placing our patients' realities at the center of our health equity policy work."

This year, 11 health centers in Dorchester, Roxbury, South Boston, the South End, the Fenway and Jamaica Plain collected more than 1,300 surveys from patients, the majority of whom are people of color.

The survey revealed that two-thirds of patients rely on public transportation to get to appointments, with 47 percent using the bus. Over 60 percent of respondents had missed appointments due to issues with public transportation. But this doesn't affect all people equally: Black patients are 1.25 times more likely than white patients - and Latino patients 1.3 times more likely - to miss or be late to an appointment due to transit reasons.

The surveys also show how displacement creates additional strain and affects the well-being of patients. When rising rents push residents out of gentrifying neighborhoods, patients are often forced to move far away from health care providers. Over 34 percent of survey respondents travel more than 30 minutes to reach their appointments, with many reporting commutes over two hours long.

When public transportation fails, patient health suffers. Missing appointments means that medical concerns can go unchecked and can lead to an increase in chronic hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room. In addition, patients can experience negative health impacts due to the stress of long and difficult commutes.

In EJ communities, exposure to environmental inequities like waste incinerators, power plants and other polluting industries, combined with a dearth of fresh food and green space leads to higher rates of illness and disease. Our communities are more likely to need medical care, and less likely to have reliable access to it.

"It is impossible to avoid the need for organizing and systems change when 60 percent of our patients are missing health care appointments - and work, school and more - due to bus service. This burden is carried overwhelmingly by black and Latino patients," said Abigail.

In September, the results of the survey were shared in a gathering of health care professionals in Boston. Community health centers have joined us to support better public transportation by advocating for a permanent Youth Pass, a tiered fare structure on THE RIDE, improved service on key bus routes used by low-income people of color, and by inviting patients to join our T Riders Union (TRU) to fight for transit justice. Directors of the centers are also pushing for a Racial Justice and Equity Commission in Boston to create equity in all areas of life that impact health outcomes.

Thank you to the Center for Community Health, Education, Research and Service, Codman Square Health Center, Fenway Community Health Center, Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, JP Tree of Life/Arbol de Vida, JP Racial Justice and Equity Collaborative, South End Community Health Center, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Kevin Odell of On the Move, and Nashira Baril for your leadership for racial and transit justice and to the Boston Alliance for Community Health for funding this initiative! We look forward to continuing this work together. 

Volunteer Night

Join us for volunteer night! It's our last volunteer night of the year, and we could your help on different projects that help move us toward our mission.

Food will be provided. Childcare & interpretation available upon request. 

Please RSVP to Giselle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

at ACE.

Human Rights Day: Fred Hampton, Jr.

Join us at The City School to learn about Fred Hampton, a Black Panther who was killed by police. We'll have dinner and a Q&A session with his son, Fred Hampton, Jr.

Art and info session on Fred Hampton: 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Dinner and Q&A with Fred Hampton, Jr.: 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
4:00 to 9:00 p.m.

The City School
614 Columbia Road
Dorchester, MA 02125

REEP Member Retreat

Calling all youth and REEP alums: Join REEP for our first member retreat of the school year! We will update members on campaigns and actions, and spend time bonding, sharing stories and building community.

Meet at ACE and we will travel together to the retreat center in Stoughton, Mass. 

Saturday, December 12, 8:00 a.m. through Sunday, December 13, 6:00 p.m.
Meet at ACE
Travel together to Packard Manse Retreat Center
583 Plain Street
Stoughton, MA 02072


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