If the Department of Transportation passes its proposed MBTA fare increases Wednesday afternoon, Curtis Shelnut could face some difficult decisions, such as which dialysis session to skip or which medical appointment to miss.
"This is my livelihood," Shelnut, who lives on St. Botolph Street, said of his access to medical services, which is provided by the MBTA's The Ride. "I'm speaking from the heart now. They cannot do this to us."
Protesters: The State Should Pay
Shelnut was one of a dozen or so protesters in front of the State House late Tuesday morning. The group is staging a 24-hour vigil to urge the Legislature to cover the MBTA's $91 million deficit.
"Failed Forward Funding legislation and Big Dig debt have bankrupted the T and should not be allowed to destroy the opportunities and mobility of transit-dependent youth, seniors and disabled riders in the Boston area," organizers – which include the Youth Affordabili(T) Coaltion, Massachusetts Senior Action Council and the T riders Union of Alternatives for Community & Environment – wrote in a press release.
In addition to covering the deficit, they are calling on the Legislature and Department of Transportation to:
- "Save THE RIDE by halting proposed price changes, including the 100 to 150 percent fare increases and the premium service area" and
- "Create a Youth Pass for all youth ages 12 to 21, with affordable pricing. According to 2010 research, Boston-area youth already experience a crisis with unaffordable T fares, causing more than one-third of youth riders to miss school, work, medical appointments and other opportunities."
Cuts Hard on the Young, Old and Disabled
John Robinson, of Somerville, said that like many people with disabilities he depends on the T. Being blind in one eye, he cannot drive and says that the proposed increase from $20 to $28 for his Transportation Access Pass will further chip away at the $700 or so he receives every month in disability pay.
Younger people, who have limited access to other forms of transportation, say that they the increases will hurt them as well.
"Even though I live close to school, I still want to go places, to explore the world," Jason Wong, a senior at Josiah Quincy Upper School, said. "If it's late at night and I only have $2, I can't afford [to get home].
Wong, like many others at the rally, said that the MBTA is trying to make riders pay for the state's mistakes. "My message is that we should be pushing the government to pay the deficit that the MBTA owes because of the Big Dig."
Modesto Sanchez, 19, of Dorchester, agrees: "They have the money for this. It's just a matter of them using it to fund the T." Sanchez sees the deficit as the state's problem.
"We shouldn't have to worry about more debt in our lives. We don't need this burden on youth riders, seniors and disabled people. It's an attack on us."
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