Moulton, Capuano Lead Delegation Effort to Prevent MBTA Cuts to Weekend Commuter Rail Service
March 16th, 2017
Cuts would have disproportionate impact on seniors and people with disabilities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Seth Moulton (MA-06) and Mike Capuano (MA-07) led a delegation wide letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in response to the MBTA’s proposed elimination of weekend commuter rail service and door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilities. The letter notes these cuts “would leave some of the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth without access to transportation, and may drive people away from using our commuter rail system in the future,” and the entire delegation requests the MBTA consider other options to cut costs.
“Once again Governor Baker is looking to balance the books on the disabled, the elderly, and the people who need this service the most. Instead, the MBTA should follow the lead of leading transit agencies around the world that are finding innovative, cost-effective ways to expand off-peak service to drive ridership and revenue while providing critical transportation to the citizens they exist to serve,” said Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06).
“While I understand that there are constraints on the MBTA’s budget and this is just an option under consideration, eliminating all weekend commuter rail service will create difficulties for people without access to other forms of travel, “said Congressman Michael E. Capuano (MA-07). “Many rely on this service to get to their jobs and visit their families.”
“These potential service cuts would hurt Massachusetts families and local businesses that rely on the MBTA. I’m committed to working with the congressional delegation and state officials to support efforts to maintain our public transit system while improving access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation options for people across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“Affordable transportation options throughout the Commonwealth should be available to the elderly, disabled, and families who work and shop on the weekend. The commuter rail line is a lifeline, especially for workers across Massachusetts who travel to their jobs on the weekend. We must strive to have an efficient transit system in the Greater Boston area, which is why strengthening access to commuter rail service and door-to-door service for seniors and persons with disabilities must be a priority,” said Senator Edward J. Markey.
“Every day thousands of riders rely on the Worcester-Boston line and cutting this service would be a huge mistake that hurts families and businesses across Massachusetts,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “The Worcester line has the second highest ridership of all commuter lines on the weekend and plays a vital role in connecting our regions and growing our state’s economy. Now more than ever we need to invest in smart public transportation options that are efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly. I urge Secretary Pollack and Chief Administrator Shortsleeve to do the right thing and protect the MBTA weekend commuter rail service from these damaging cuts.”
“Access to safe, affordable and reliable transportation plays a critical role in the lives of Massachusetts residents during the week and on the weekend,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03). “The Third District has three major commuter rail lines – Haverhill, Lowell, and Fitchburg – and many residents rely on The Ride for their transportation needs. Cutting weekend rail service would have a very real impact on those who work on the weekend, forcing them to find alternative means of transportation that could be more costly and less reliable. And eliminating door-to-door ride service would cause undue burden for seniors and people with disabilities. Maintaining weekend service is important to this region’s economic and personal well-being.”
“Public transportation fortifies our local economies, connects our businesses and supports working families. Ending weekend travel on the MBTA commuter rail will reinforce income inequality in our state and increase divides between Greater Boston and the rest of Massachusetts,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04).
LETTER TEXT BELOW:
March 16, 2016
The Honorable Secretary Pollack
Secretary & Chief Executive Officer
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116
Mr. Brian Shortsleeve
Chief Administrator & Acting General Manager
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02116
Dear Secretary Pollack and Mr. Shortsleeve:
We write to you to express our concern over reports that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is considering eliminating weekend commuter rail service as well as door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilities in an effort to reduce operating costs. While we share your commitment to improving the MBTA, such cuts would leave some of the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth without access to transportation, and may drive people away from using our commuter rail system in the future.
Thousands of Massachusetts people use the commuter rail each weekend, even though it operates less frequently than weekdays. In addition to benefiting tourist, recreation and hospitality businesses throughout the Commonwealth, many weekend commuters need reliable service to get to work, medical appointments, and to connect with loved ones. Many of these travelers have no other options to get where they need to go.
The U.S. Census Bureau found that our state has the sixth highest level of income inequality in the nation. According to a Harvard University study, commuting time is the number one determinant of social mobility. Our commuter rail system should be enhancing access to economic opportunity – the cuts you are considering would do the exact opposite.
We agree that it is essential to that the MBTA finds a fiscally responsible path forward. However, we cannot ignore the potential effect eliminating weekend commuter service will have on generating passenger revenues. Data shows that ridership grows when transit service is reliable and more frequent. In fact, today many systems in Europe and Canada are increasing off-peak and weekend services for this very reason.
To be clear, of course everyone understands the need to temporarily close systems down for repairs and improvements. That reason for a closure, accompanied by adequate notice and rapid completion, is necessary and appropriate regardless of the temporary inconvenience.
We share your commitment to ensuring that the residents of Massachusetts have access to a safe and reliable commuter rail service. It is in that spirit we ask that you to consider what other options are available to save money for the MBTA moving forward. We stand ready to assist you in any way we can.