FRONTLINES OF THE CLASS WAR
Hundreds of protestors took to Copley Square yesterday to rally against MBTA proposed fare hikes and service cuts and to attend the subsequent public hearing. People from all over the Boston area were represented, as well as members of various organizations—including the state’s Sierra Club chapter, Occupy Boston, Boston Living Center and the Fenway Community Development Corporation—were in attendance. However, the stars of the rally, and especially, the hearing, were the elderly, the disabled, and local high school students.
“Public transit is a lifeline for these people,” said Lee Matsueda of the T Riders Union, which organized the rally.
The MBTA has proposed two scenarios, both with increased fares and reduced services. Cuts include no weekend service on the commuter rail or E-line, various bus routes and ferry service. Senior and student discounts will also be reduced if not eliminated.
“We live on the E-line,” said one female Northeastern student. “We’re being cut off from the city.”
“The fare increase is bad enough, but students and seniors get the worst of it, all those people without jobs,” said Tyree Ware, an alumni organizer with YouthWayontheMBTA.
He believes students play a big role in fighting the proposals. “Students need to come out and make noise, and be heard.”
All that energy would follow the protestors to the MBTA’s public hearing, held in the Public Library’s Rabb Lecture Hall. A huge crowd that stretched from the Lecture Hall, located downstairs, to nearly the main entrance was turned away.
Inside, 100 people signed up to speak to the MBTA board; about eighty of them would get the chance. Students kept the scene lively, chanting and cheering louder than anyone–especially when one of their own was speaking.
“If this happened when I was a freshman,” said Alison Casey, a senior at Roslindale High, “I wouldn’t be graduating, and I wouldn’t be going to college.”
“Who here asked for the Big Dig?” asked Roy James, referencing the fact that $1.8 billion of the MBTA’s debt comes from the Big Dig.
“Not me,” said someone in the crowd.
“So why do we have to pay for it?”
“We’re not trying to attack you, we’re just trying to get you to listen,” said Carlos Rojas, member of the Boston Student Advisory Council, to the MBTA board.
“To you I’m just a number. That’s okay, because to me, you’re heartless.”
Charles Planck, working the podium at the event, would try to cut Rojas’s lengthy speech off twice before the high school student finished.
“It scares and angers me that you would make it harder on students,” said Rojas.
The room roared when he ended his speech.
“Barely anyone in Chinatown owns a damn car,” said Jeff, a member of Chinatown Youth, criticizing how either scenario would force more people to buy cars in an already polluted area.
The older generation had kind words for the student speakers.
“I’m 75 and a proud resident of Occupy Boston,” said one Fenway area resident. “And who could ever say the youth of Boston has no focus? These students are the most focused and articulate population we’ve seen in years.”
That same citizen also raised concerns about how cutting service to the E-line would affect the elderly and disabled.
“Fenway has the highest population of elderly and handicapped people in the area, and by your proposal you are isolating us.”
Many disabled or elderly citizens also voiced concern about the future cost of THE RIDE, the MBTA’s paratransit program.
“Most of us live on a fixed income,” said one concerned customer, an elder woman.
“I can deal with maybe a three dollar, or four dollar increase, but according to the current plan each way would cost twelve dollars. It’s a step backwards for people with disabilities because it keeps us in our houses.”
“I love my driver,” said a man with Parkinson’s Disease. “I need THE RIDE. It’s a challenge.”
An elderly Asian man in an orange jacket came down the stairs and a young woman had to translate for him.
“If you go through with these cuts, the city of Boston will be in a coma,” he said.
“How will we get to work? How will we go grocery shopping? The burden shouldn’t fall on students, who rely on financial aid and scholarships. And it shouldn’t fall on the elderly who rely on security benefits, meager benefits.
“Why don’t you go and tax the people who are wealthy, the One Percent? Why don’t you raise their taxes?”
A older man named David took to the podium, and announced that is this was his third MBTA hearing. “The Titanic must be sitting before me because the ship is going down and they’re attacking children and elderly first. Do you want us to boycott? Do you want us to walk? Because we will walk.”
FOR UPCOMING PUBLIC HEARINGS VISIT MBTA.COM/JOINTHEDISCUSSION