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Brookline residents object to proposed MBTA cuts

By Matthew Lenczewski
On March 16, 2012

Nearly 80 Brookline residents assembled to protest proposed MBTA fare hikes and service changes during a public hearing at Brookline High School.

For nearly three hours residents as well as town and state officials voiced their anxieties over the proposals and offered up their thoughts on how to resolve debt problems afflicting the struggling transportation body.

"It's possible we have the highest level of ridership since World War II, and here we are proposing to cut service," said Chris Scoville, chair of Brookline's Public Transportation Advisory Committee. "The whole reason we're here is a paradox."

The hearing was held in response to an announcement in January that the MBTA is considering two scenarios to bridge a $161 million budget gap for fiscal 2013.  The plans are part of a larger effort aimed at dealing with more than $5 billion worth of debt overall.

One of the scenarios calls for a large fare increase and just a few service cuts that would directly affect Brookline. The other plan offers a smaller increase in exchange for broader service cuts, including the elimination of the 51 and 60 bus routes that run through South Brookline.

Several of the 25 or so residents who spoke seemed to favor fare increases over service cuts, pointing out that the 51 and 60 buses are the only public transportation links from South Brookline to the rest of town.

Caroline Alexander, who lives in South Brookline, said her children take the bus to school, and she rides it because a disability limits her ability to walk.

"One of the best points about moving here was that I lived with good access to the bus," she said.

Towards the start of the hearing, a member of the MBTA Advisory Board laid out an alternate plan for closing the MBTA's gap. Dick Leary, a Brookline resident, said the MBTA could close the gap through a 25 percent fare hike and a series of other moves, including freezing pay increases for MBTA employees and nixing ferry service.

"We took a balanced approach to the options facing the T," he said.  "We hope that the advice the board has put on the table will gather additional support."

Some speakers offered their thoughts on how the MBTA can tackle their debt without hurting riders. Ideas ranged from support for a gas tax to route alterations and legislation removing Big Dig debt from the MBTA's books.

However, legislative changes like a gas tax would require the support of parts of the state where public transportation is less important, such as Cape Cod and western Massachusetts.

Several speakers said local legislators needed to do more to bring their colleagues on board.  "You guys have to go to our democratic representatives from the Berkshires," said Tommy Vitolo. "You've got to go out there and twist arms."

Others implored the MBTA to think about the butterfly effect of their actions, like the impact changes might have on the economy and environment.

And while nobody became noticeably upset while talking, one resident took a creative approach to get her point across. Barbara Brown, a former School Committee member, took to song, getting many attendees to join her in an extemporaneous version of "Charlie on the MTA".

Brown pointed out that the song, about a man who gets stuck on the subway, was originally written for a candidate who was protesting a proposed fare hike in the 1940s.

Ironically, it's been adopted by the MBTA as a kind of symbol, since the T named its fare cards after the song's protagonist. She ended her remarks by reading a verse from the tune:

Now you citizens of Boston,

Don't you think it's a scandal

That the people have to pay and pay

Vote for Walter A. O'Brien

and Fight the fare increase!

Get poor Charlie off the MTA.

 

 

Below is a list of proposed changes under the MBTA's scenarios, and how they affect the Brookline area.

 

Scenario 1

Scenario 2

51 Bus

No proposed changes

Weekday, Saturday & Sunday service eliminated

60 Bus

No proposed changes

Weekday, Saturday & Sunday service eliminated

65 Bus

No proposed changes

No proposed changes

66 Bus

No proposed changes

No proposed changes

Bus Fare 

CharlieCard: $1.75

CharlieTicket: $2.25 

CharlieCard: $1.75

CharlieTicket: $2.25

Green B Line

No proposed changes

No proposed changes

Green C Line

No proposed changes

No proposed changes

Green D Line

No proposed changes

No proposed changes

Green E Line

Weekend service eliminated

No proposed weekday changes

Weekend service eliminated

No proposed weekday changes

T Fare

CharlieCard: $2.40

CharlieTicket: $3.00

CharlieCard: $2.25

CharlieTicket: $3.00

 

 

 


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