A History of the MBTA's Debt

While the state legislature recently allocated $160 million from the sales tax increase, the MBTA will start this fiscal year nearly $30 million in debt. State legislation, known as Forward Funding, saddled the T with $3.3 billion debt in 2000, $1.6 billion of which is Big Dig debt. This debt was supposed to be paid for with sales tax revenue, but those revenues have consistently declined, and revenues were never high enough to meet the T’s overwhelming financial burden. The legislature must take steps to relieve the T of its debt burden and find a new revenue source to fully fund the MBTA.

In order to meet budget shortfalls, the T is proposing fare increases which average 20%, but are as high as a 33% increase for cash fares. These fare increases are 10% above the cost of living increase. As an alternative to fare increases, the T is also proposing service cuts. These cuts would serve to reduce evening and weekend bus service by 50%, reduce evening subway service by 50%, eliminate all weekend commuter rail service, and reduce or eliminate many other important bus and rail services.

These proposals, if enacted, would be overly burdensome to communities who can least afford it. Low income communities and communities of color, already highly dependent on public transit, will bear the highest burden of these increases. In a recent survey, 500 high school students reported that they can’t afford to buy a student pass to get to school.

The T is one of the most important entities in the state and should be a first-rate service. Last year, 385 million trips were made on T services, which is an average of over a million trips per day. 73% of Massachusetts residents live within the T’s service area, and are dependent upon the T for their commutes, regardless of whether they ride the T or drive to work. Massachusetts drivers lose 43 hours a year to congestion traffic, which would only get worse if the T didn’t
exist. Further, these fare increases could result in as much as a 12% loss in ridership, meaning that more people are sure to get back in their cars. This will have a profound environmental impact on a state that already has some of the worst asthma rates in the country.

In order to remain one of the most vibrant and exciting states in this country, in order to invest in our local economy, reduce our negative environmental impact, relieve our dependence on oil, and create livable communities, we must have a 21st-century public transportation system. Fare increases and service cuts don’t get to the heart of the MBTA’s problem: its overwhelming debt burden. Please attend a public workshop or the public hearing and make your voice heard. Tell the MBTA not to saddle riders with this debt; urge your legislators to fully fund the T.

A list of the public workshops in Boston and Somerville is below. For more information about additional workshops, or to submit testimony via email, visit http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=17843.

Find out who your legislator is by visiting http://www.wheredoivotema.com.

Monday August 10
4:00-7:00 P.M.
Gardner Auditorium – State House
24 Beacon Street

Thursday, August 13
5:30-7:30 P.M.
Somerville High School Auditorium
81 Highland Ave

Thursday, August 27
State Transportation Building
10 Park Plaza
5:30-7:30 P.M.


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