On April 4, the MBTA Advisory Board voted on a 23 percent fare hikes across the board, plus the elimination of four weekday routes. Pitched as a more palatable alternative to the two earlier proposals (35-43% hikes, cuts to over 100 bus lines), this proposal nevertheless represents an unacceptable burden on T riders, students, seniors, and the unemployed. It also leaves us with a $184 million budget deficit, which we’ll have to resolve with even bigger hikes and cuts next year.
On April 3, members of the Youth AffordabiliT Coalition occupied the State House steps to demand that the legislature intervene to cover the $91 million deficit for this year, as well as institute a long-awaited youth pass. On April 4, members from Occupy MBTA held a National Day of Action around Public Transportation and began a 10-day occupation of the State House steps to demand comprehensive transit plan for the entire state of Massachusetts. On our third day of Camp Charlie, we’re looking forward to a packed weekend of education and organization around the MBTA!
Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect over the next few days.
Crash course on the MBTA budget crisis
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 3 p.m.
State House Steps
Over the years, the MBTA’s financial viability has been wrecked by Big Dig debt, forward funding, and interest rate swaps ($26 million owed annually to Wall Street banks; the MBTA now possesses a total debt load of $5.2 billion and counting. How did the MBTA get into this position? What are the current proposals on the table? How does this occupation fit into this plan?
Riding the Rails: Outreach Training
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 4:30 p.m.
State House steps
Take our message directly to T riders across Boston – no hikes, no cuts, no layoffs! This is about as direct as outreach can get. Spend a few hours learning how to talk to strangers, and help us start a longer conversation about the T.
Occupy MBTA Meeting + Open Strategy Session
TODAY, Friday, April 6, 6 pm
State House Steps
A comprehensive overview of where we are, what our demands are, why these dates are important, and so forth, followed by an action assembly to talk plans, strategy, and next steps. ALL ARE WELCOME — please come, a great place to plug in for the first time and learn more about this campaign, and figure out what you can do in the next eight days to really drive this message home.
Camp Charlie Potluck and Teach-In
Saurday, April 7, 1 pm – 4 pm
State House steps
Bring a dish to share and join us for an teach-ins about the fight to save the T and the broader struggle for transit justice. Interest rate swaps, debt cancellation, history fo the T, and more. For more details, contact: Josh Golin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Joint Committee on Transportation Hearing on Bill H.4011
Monday, April 9, 10 am
State House, Room B-1
This is a big one. On Monday, Deval Patrick will offer a short-term solution to this year’s gap in the MBTA’s budget – a $51 million transfer from the Motor Vehicles Inspection Trust Fund at the MBTA. The proposal acknowledges a structural deficit, yet fails to make any provisions forlong-term funding of the MBTA. At the same time, he will be recommending that MassDOT amend its current lease agreement with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board to require the Conservancy to comply with open meeting and public records laws.
Both issues have obvious relevance of Occupy MBTA! Join us as we call on Governor Patrick to offer a comprehensive plan that builds force in the entire state — not just piece by piece correction.
WHY HERE? WHY THESE DATES?
Many people have asked, “Why ten days? What happens on the 14th?”
By law, the MBTA must balance its budget every year by April 15. But the MBTA can’t balance its budget — it has been chronically underfunded for years, with no allocation made to cover huge losses under Forward Funding and the Big Dig debt. The recommendation that came forward on April 4 — a 23% fare hike across the board, plus cuts to buses, with more to come next year — is an unacceptable solution, which leaves us with a $200 million deficit for the upcoming year.
The occupation is a people’s veto. We’re holding them to the date, but we’re taking it above the MBTA to the legislature, which got the MBTA into this mess in the first place and has the ability to do something about it. In three months of hearings, Governor Patrick, House Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Murray have been woefully silent on this issue. If the MBTA is truly to balance its budget by the 15th, we need our leaders to step in to offer a real solution, both to this year’s crisis, and to the spiraling debt costs that the MBTA will continue to face in years to come.
How do we do that? With a comprehensive transit plan that benefits the entire state. With a one-year bailout to stave off devastating hikes and cuts. And with a commitment to do this without privatizing and selling it piece by piece. We’ll be here until the 14th. We hope you’ll join us!