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Medford Residents Line Up to Voice Opposition to Proposed MBTA Cuts

City Hall was packed Wednesday for an informational meeting held by legislators to discuss the MBTA.

Dozens of residents streamed to the microphone in Medford City Hall Chambers Wednesday night to voice concerns over possibly losing bus routes in Medford and MBTA fare hikes.

“It will be a disaster for every community that is impacted by the bus routes,” Winthrop Street Resident Susan Altman said before the packed crowd. “But it will also be a disaster for Boston because all those people who cannot take buses any longer but can get in a car will be doing that. That will be dreadful.”

Local legislators held the informational meeting Wednesday to hear from residents on two proposed plans from MBTA: One that would dramatically cut routes with modest fare increases, and another that would cut some routes with dramatic fare increases. Both aim to address a projected $161 million deficit the MBTA would face in 2013 if the state doesn’t find new funding sources.

Wednesday’s meeting was coordinated by State Representatives Paul Donato, Sean Garballey, Carl Sciortino and State Senator Pat Jehlen to get input from T riders and to give them an update on what the legislature is doing to address the funding shortfall.

“(The Legislature) knows that the most important issue besides healthcare is the T, and we need to find a long term solution, whatever that may be,” Donato said. “I’m not sure at this point any of us have the answers.”

Garballey, the chairman of the legislature’s MBTA caucus, said one possibility could be an open-road toll on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. Whatever the solution is, it must be amendable to the whole state, he said.

“We’re really looking at any solution possible,” Garballey said. “Everything is on the table; it has to be.”

Jonathan Davis, General Manager of the MBTA and a Medford resident, also attended the meeting. He sat in a chair lined-up against a sidewall in the chambers, sitting silently and occasionally taking notes as rider after rider walked to the microphone and addressed the legislators seated behind the rail.

Mystic Street resident Audrey Stanwood wondered what would happen to the already-packed MBTA subways if there were massive bus route cuts – especially when there are sporting events in Boston.

“Are they all really going to bring cars into Boston?” She said. “Where are they going to park?”

Rising fares could cause some who depend on the T to have to cut back with other spending, hurting the local economy, Medford resident Maryann Broxton said.

“Not only is it going to be affecting families, all the businesses are going to be feeling it too,” Broxton said.

MBTA Chief: Neither Proposal Will be Used

After announcing its two proposals in January, the MBTA scheduled a series of hearings to weigh public input on them. Once those hearings finish at the end of February, MBTA officials will look things over again, and come up with a final budget by April 15, Davis said in a brief interview after the meeting.

“When we came out with the two proposals we didn’t expect either one would be implemented in its entirety,” Davis said.

Instead, the input from some riders at the hearings will potentially be implemented in the final solution, he said.

“What we’re hearing across the board is not only do they not want reductions, they want increases to public tranportation,” Davis said. “However, we have the stark reality of a $161 million deficit, and we’re required to submit a balanced budget to our board of directors.”

But Davis bristled when asked if the hearings would put pressure on the legislature to find more funding for the MBTA.

“I’m not going to go down that road,” Davis said. “But we do understand this affects people. If we have to implement some of these service changes some people might be left out of having public transportation options. That’s not something we like.”

As legislators look for a short-term fix to the budget deficit, the MBTA is looking for short-term money-saving options, Davis said.

“We continue to look for ways to reduce head count without affecting jobs and also without affecting quality service to our customers,” Davis said.

Richard Carle February 09, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I sae no mention of the elimination of the "Ride" which will have an extremely adverse effect on our most vulnerable citizens. I propose we change the requirement that the Green line must be extended to Medford. Put that money toward the T deficit. The Green line extension is the stupidest idea ever concocted, closely followed by the proposal to build a garage in Medford Square.
DC February 09, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Richard, There is only one problem with your proposal........it makes too much sense.
Surly Steve February 09, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Davis says they want to "reduce headcount with affecting jobs." How the hell do you do that?
Brian Butler February 09, 2012 at 05:18 PM
The solution to this is the simplest thing on planet Earth. A 10 cent motor fuels tax direct to the MBTA coffers. This is not the elephant in the room. It's the whole zoo...! Connecticut residents drive 20 minutes or more to the Mass state line to buy our cheap gas... This is criminal that we can't ask for a "rate hike" on motorists who continue to benefit from the cheapest fuel prices in the world. Last night we heard ideas like taking money from the road salt fund, revisiting the sales tax, looking at other things to cut. Why in the world is a gas tax a complete non-starter? I couldn't even see our panel of legislators from the giant elephants in the room. Western Mass can jump up and down about this being a "Boston thing", but cheap motor fuels hurt them just as much by encouraging more traffic and pollution on their roads too. Final point: discounted fares for the students of Boston's Universities should be the carrot that is waved in front of the "non profit" mega universities that continue to benefit from the Commonwealth's largess without paying a dime of tax for this privilege. Why can't these fare discounts be funded by said Universities...?
Roberta February 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Adequate funding for a complete transportation system that provides safe, reliable infrastructure for drivers, walkers, bikers and riders is the #1 issue. All of us have to get to work or other places we go, and most of us have limited options for how to get there. A transportation system does not happen by magic. There has to be adequate revenue. Regarding the Greenline extension, this current controversy provides a perfect example of how much better served the Medford Hillside/West Medford area will be with subway access than we currently are with only buses and commuter rail. Aside from being too infrequent and/or unreliable under current conditions, they are under threat of further reduction or elimination, while subway service is by comparison far more reliable and secure. Rather than picking at which current or future transit routes to write off, we should be focusing on how to sustain a transportation system that serves all of our community.
MattyCiii February 09, 2012 at 09:37 PM
The T will save much more money if only they suspended all service of all kinds (bus, subway, commuter, ferry) every Wednesday until further notice. Would there be massive impact to commuters, businesses, people, public safety, everything? Yes. Exactly. And that is where we get the political will to implement more realistic user fees to reduce the taxpayer subsidies for motorists (which then can be applied to MBTA).
Marc Levine February 14, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Bring the UNIONS back to the table. Cut some fat off the top. Love seeing those same empty buses everyday. Cut those lines back to every other hour. Cut lines that are not used enough . People may have to wait longer but at least their bus will show up. Not totally cut leaving some folks stranded. What the heck through in the tolls too. just kidding about the tolls (I think)

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