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Report Warns Proposed MBTA Cuts Would Hamper Boston Metro Area's Economy, Jobs And Growth

A Better City (ABC), a nonprofit transportation advocacy organization, has released a position paper about the fare increases and services cuts proposed by the MBTA. ABC analyzed both proposals by the MBTA to close a $161 million budget deficit forecast for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. In its paper, ABC concluded:

"... the T should seek to close part of its budget gap with a more reasonable fare hike and limited service cuts. The T should then work with MassDOT, Massport, the Patrick administration and the legislature to address the remaining budget shortfall for FY 2013, and to begin work on a long-term, comprehensive finance plan for the Commonwealth’s entire transportation system."

The MBTA had proposed service cuts including the termination of late night and weekend commuter rail service, weekend "E" Green Line service, Mattapan Line, many bus routes, and all ferry service. About these cuts, ABC stated:

"... The T should not cut Commuter Rail service after 10pm and on weekends, nor should it cut weekend service on the E Branch of the Green Line or the Mattapan Trolley. Commuter boat service should be preserved, with a lower public subsidy and operated under the auspices of Massport. Due to the severe impact on riders, bus route service eliminations or reductions should be limited to the ten least efficient routes in the system. Going forward, the T should adopt more stringent and rational service planning criteria across all modes and commit to adjusting service accordingly."

According to ABC, everyday the Boston's population doubles as people commute to work. 55% of those work trips, and 45% of all MBTA trips, include commuting to work. The service cuts proposed by the MBTA would make it difficult for employees to get to work, employers to staff positions, patients to visit doctors and hospitals, and customers to visit entertainment venues:

"Across all sectors, ABC member businesses told us they are concerned about the impact that fare hikes and service cuts would have on their employees’ ability to get to work. Some of our members in the hospitality industry noted that the T’s current service hours are not adequate for employees working odd shifts... The viability of T service, then, has a direct impact on the size of this industry’s job shed, and particularly on the job prospects of low-skilled workers... The health care industry operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the hospitals of the Longwood Medical Area would be particularly impacted by the proposed service cuts to the Green Line E Branch and the Commuter Rail. These cuts would impact the ability not only of doctors, nurses and support staff to get to their jobs, but also of patients to make their appointments... These businesses have also deployed flexible scheduling and staggered shifts to best utilize their real estate and cope with our already-congested transportation network."

The service cuts would force more autos onto already congested roads, resulting in:

"... 55,000 and 92,000 more cars on the road daily... if there were no public transportation in the Boston area, the additional traffic congestion would cost the regional economy $663 million annually. Based on this estimate, if one-tenth of the T’s current ridership elect to abandon the T and drive their commutes... the additional congestion could cost Massachusetts $66 million a year."

Parking around the city, already a problem, would become worse as more people drive and many parking lots are replaced by office buildings:

"ABC members located in the South Boston Waterfront were particularly concerned that changes at the T would increase demand for parking at a time when large lots currently used by commuters to the Waterfront and to the Financial District are slated to be developed over the next decade. South Boston, East Boston and Downtown are all subject to Parking Freezes. The City of Cambridge also enforces a Parking and Transportation Demand Management ordinance. These policies, implemented to curb air pollution, have made both cities heavily reliant on transit to support future economic growth..."

The higher education industry would be similarly affected:

"... increased demand for parking is at odds with their plans to expand. UMass Boston is a commuter school with a 45% transit share. It’s attempting to increase that number to 60% so that it can utilize its surface parking lots for staging construction of new campus buildings. Boston University, which purchases $2.1 million in T passes for faculty, staff and students, and spends $1.6 million operating its shuttle service, is also planning to reduce its parking spaces in order to make room for new construction. T fare hikes and service cuts will make it harder for both these institutions to grow..."

The entertainment and tourism industries would be similarly affected:

"The proposed cuts to evening and weekend Commuter Rail service would have a significant impact on fans’ and patrons’ ability to get into and out of the city for games, concerts and other cultural events."

ABC suggests that the MBTA:

  • Limit its fare increase to 25% and pursue smaller, more frequent increases,
  • Maintain commuter rail, trolley, and ferry services,
  • Cut only the "10 worst" bus lines,
  • Better match resources (e.g., buses and trains) to demand

ounded in 1989 as the Artery Business Committee, A Better City is a nonprofit association representing Greater Boston’s business and institutional community on transportation, land development and environmental sustainability. Download the ABC position paper (Adobe PDF, 1.9M Bytes), which is also available here (Adobe PDF, 1.9M Bytes).


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So what happens when $4.00+ per gallon of gas encourages even the most car-loving folks to attempt public transportation? We cut it back? This seems like a knee-jerk reaction without thought to long-term planning. They need to look at the big picture of how and why people commute.

For example, I'm obviously a "save the ferry" person. One issue is that the last ferry to the South Shore leaves at 8:30 pm. The last two commuter rails to the South Shore are 8:20 and 10 pm. Chances are a business dinner or an event, like catching the concerts at the BHH, leave me wanting to come home at 9 pm. There is no option for that, so I end up driving rather than wait an hour in South Station. I'm sure I'm not the only one. They should be testing small changes like that before just cutting services.


Yes. The service cuts and fare increases are short-sighted and focus on a direction counter to where we want public transportation to go given the ever increasing rise of the price at the pump.

The BBJ reported that Boston has the 8th worst traffic of American cities:

Auto drivers probably don't realize that the T service cuts will **directly** affect them, too. More cars on the roads = more congestion + longer commutes + higher parking fees. So, if you commute by auto, a solid mass transit system benefits you, too.

The report has a good section on "How We Got Here" which I would call "How We Got Into This Mess." If mass transit is viewed as a public good benefiting everyone, then it's funding process should match that view; not funding it like a private-sector corporation.

I only wish that ABC had quantified the impact with x thousand lost jobs over 1-, 3-, and 5-year horizons.


K. Bird

Additionally, if the T cuts services and annoyed people use the T less, then the T receives even less revenue as its ridership goes down. If the T improves and increases services, ridership could increase, thus increasing revenues. The T affects all of us - drivers as well as commuters, not to mention people who live in proximity to highways and whose health will be increased by the fumes from yet more traffic. We should be as willing to maintain and support the T as we are to maintain roads.

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