Seniors, People with Disabilities Perform Live Cover of “Backstabbers” at Mass. State House to Protest MBTA Fare Hikes
Dozens of riders affected by drastic MBTA fare hikes descend on Beacon Hill to hold the governor and his administration accountable for public transit betrayal
BEACON HILL – Dozens of seniors and people with disabilities descended on Beacon Hill Thursday to hold Governor Deval Patrick and state legislators accountable for what they call “backstabbing” on public transit fare increases. Gathered outside the Ashburton entrance of the State House with knives firmly planted in their backs, the coalition of riders and advocates performed a live cover of the 1972 O’Jays classic, “Backstabbers” – calling out the administration and legislators for their failure to protect vulnerable riders.
“With fares doubling, I can’t afford to make it to Mass General for doctor’s appointments anymore,” said Joanne Repoza, 76, who depends on MBTA’s RIDE paratransit service. “I can’t fathom how these people can smile in our faces, then stab us in the back. They’re nothing but backstabbers.”
Organized by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council (MSAC) and allied transit advocates, participants fanned out inside the State House to return more than 100 cardboard knives they say Patrick and legislators used to attack seniors and people with disabilities in the recent transit budget. Each knife was affixed with an “evidence tag,” that tells the story of a rider who will be effectively homebound by the commonwealth’s draconian fare hikes on the MBTA.
“I go to church every week and I go to Bible study regularly. I need The RIDE to get there and home again,” said Jacque Gillman of Lynn, MA. “The way these politicians have stabbed us in the back, I won’t be able to get to church anymore – and God won’t like that, believe me!”
The protest came as MBTA officials prepare to institute a system of dramatic fare hikes, set to go into effect Sunday, July 1. Senior citizens face fare hikes as high as 87.5 percent. People with disabilities who rely on The RIDE will see fare increases of 100 to 150 percent – making it one of the most expensive paratransit systems in the country. With the blessing of the legislature and administration, these disproportionate increases directly target those who can least afford it, forcing nearly 250,000 fewer trips each year due to cost. Many seniors and people with disabilities will find themselves effectively isolated from doctor’s appointments, pharmacies and physical therapy services as a result.