Lawmakers are escalating demands that the Baker administration walk back a series of sweeping cuts to MBTA service as the state’s transit systems are on track to receive another $1 billion in federal stimulus funds.
Pols including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and state Sen. Joseph Boncore will join transit workers and riders at a virtual rally at 11 a.m. Friday, where they will demand Gov. Charlie Baker and the board that oversees the MBTA “reverse the shortsighted cuts” made amid the pandemic.
“These cuts are completely unnecessary,” said Olivia Nichols, transit justice organizer from GreenRoots. “The MBTA is receiving billions in funds from the federal government. Our governor and the (Fiscal Management Control Board) should focus on using that money to reverse the cuts and to make the MBTA more affordable and accessible, instead of making it more difficult for our community members to get around.”
President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” has earmarked most of the $1 billion headed to Massachusetts transportation for the beleaguered transit agency — that’s on top of the roughly $1 billion already provided to the T in earlier stimulus rounds.
Despite the boost in funding, the T has forged ahead with cuts as it confronts a growing budget deficit, spurred by a drop in ridership amid the pandemic, that could balloon to $1.8 billion by 2026.
Those debt projections don’t take into account the latest round of funding. According to the T, the service cuts would save just $21 million this fiscal year.
The cuts, which are intended to be temporary, include suspending 20 bus routes, eliminating weekend commuter rail service on seven lines, slashing the Hingham and Hull ferry schedules and reducing trip frequency on nonessential buses and the Red, Orange and Green lines by 20%.
The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation on Wednesday fired off a letter calling on MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak to provide information to justify the cuts or reverse them.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, who signed onto the letter, blasted the cuts earlier this week as an “anathema” to the will of Congress and urged Baker and T officials to reach their “come to Jesus moment.”
“We take money from the taxpayer and then the MBTA cuts service?” Lynch said. “That doesn’t work for me.”
Original story here.