Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members

The MassDOT Board of Directors
 Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members  Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members  Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members  Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members  Occupy MBTA Sends Open Letters to MassDOT Board Members
John R. Jenkins Andrew Whittle Elizabeth Levin Ferdinand Alvaro Janice Loux

On March 26, 2012, Occupy MBTA sent an open letter to each member of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors. The letters ask each MassDOT Board Member whether he or she will refuse to vote for any proposal that includes fare hikes, service cuts, or layoffs, and about his or her efforts to find alternative funding solutions.

The text of the letter to John R. Jenkins, Chair, reads:

March 26, 2012

Mr. John R. Jenkins
Chair, MassDOT Board of Directors
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, Massachusetts 02116

Dear Mr. Jenkins:

By April 4, 2012, the MassDOT Board of Directors is scheduled to release its final proposal for closing the MBTA’s FY 2013 budget gap. Over the past few months, at public hearings, rallies, marches, on the airwaves and on the internet, the people of Massachusetts have resoundingly rejected MassDOT’s initial two proposals, and have said NO to any proposal that includes fare hikes, service cuts, or layoffs. Yet, on March 13, MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey and MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis wrote a public “MassDOT, MBTA Letter to Customers” stating, “Our final proposal will include both cuts and a fare increase.”[1]

As Chair of the MassDOT Board of Directors, you will have an integral role in creating the final proposal. We fear MassDOT and the MBTA have not been listening to the people, but we are hopeful that you have. We would like to know:

  1. Will you refuse to vote for any proposal that includes fare hikes, service cuts, or layoffs? If not, why not?
  2. Have you explored ways to close the FY 2013 budget gap without fare hikes, service cuts, or layoffs, such as the “Fast Five” solutions proposed by the T Rider’s Union,[2] or the 21 cost-saving measures (without fare increases or service cuts) suggested by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council?[3] If so, what were your results? If not, why not?
  3. According to the MBTA’s Historical Statement of Revenue and Expenses,[4] in FY 2011, customer fares raised about $448 million in revenue, but the MBTA spent about $393 million on debt service payments. This means almost 90% of customer fares were spent on debt service payments. In FY 2010, it was even worse: 99% of customer fares were spent on debt service payments! What will you do to reduce these debt service payments? What has been tried?
  4. The MBTA is paying three bailed-out banks (UBS, Deutsche Bank, and JPMorgan Chase) $26 million this year for interest rate swaps, and it’s on the hook for another $287 million through 2031. Do you think it’s right to continue paying these banks while significantly increasing the burden on seniors, the disabled, students, and low-income riders? These and other banks received billions from taxpayers when they were in trouble. Do you agree that now, they should step up to help bail out the T? Have you contacted UBS, Deutsche Bank, and JPMorgan Chase about canceling or renegotiating these swaps? If so, what were your results? If not, why not?
  5. Sales tax funding solutions like “Forward Funding,” initiated by the state legislature in 2000, have failed to meet projections and are not a sustainable funding source for public transportation. Have you approached the legislature for a more sustainable funding solution? If so, what were your results? If not, why not?
  6. Have you read MAPC’s report, “A Healthy T for a Healthy Region?”[5] which concludes, “even seemingly modest fare increases and service cuts to the MBTA system would result in costs that far exceed the budget shortfall the proposed changes seek to address.” How will you ensure that the Board’s final proposal will not damage public health or the environment, and end up costing more than it saves?

Please send your answers to us at occupymbta [at] occupyboston [dot] org. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Respectfully,
Occupy MBTA
occupymbta [at] occupyboston [dot] org
www.occupymbta.org

[1] http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2012/03/massdot-mbta-letter-to-customers.html
[2] http://www.ace-ej.org/fastfive
[3] http://fixthet.mapc.org/
[4] http://mbta.com/about_the_mbta/financials/?id=1054
[5] http://mapc.org/resources/health-impact-assessment

Download PDFs of the letters:
Occupy MBTA’s Open Letter to John R. Jenkins
Occupy MBTA’s Open Letter to Andrew Whittle
Occupy MBTA’s Open Letter to Elizabeth Levin
Occupy MBTA’s Open Letter to Ferdinand Alvaro
Occupy MBTA’s Open Letter to Janice Loux

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