The Massachusetts legislature is considering a stop gap funding bill to help out the state’s transit authorities. People who depend on public transportation hope it will be enough to avoid fare hikes. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
The bulk of the $51 million bailout would go to the MBTA, which operates buses, trolleys, and subways in the greater Boston area, as well as commuter rail that stretches across the eastern two-thirds of the state. Officials say the funds will help close what remains of a budget deficit and avoid deeper service cuts to go along with fare hikes starting July 1st.
The bill also provides some money for financially struggling regional transit authorities. John Bennett, the president of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council says with state help on the way there is no need for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to raise fares next month.
About 50 people rallied Tuesday across the street from the main bus terminal in downtown Springfield to protest PVTA fare hikes.
The PVTA advisory board is scheduled to meet June 27 in Springfield to consider raising fares. The PVTA administration said fare hikes are needed to close a $1.8 million budget deficit. A coalition of organizations representing the poor, elderly and transit workers, spoke out against the fare hikes at a series of public hearings in late March and at Tuesday’s protest.
Vanessa Jamison of Springfield said she takes the bus every day and the proposed 25 cent per trip increase will hurt.
Money for the regional transit authorities was put into the MBTA bail out bill as a sweetener to entice legislators from outside greater Boston to support it, according to State Senator Gale Candaras of Wilbraham.
A sweeping transportation reform law enacted a few years ago was suppose to resolve the MBTA’s chronic financial problems by giving it 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenues.
Candaras has co-sponsored a bipartisan amendment that would establish an MBTA control board. It would have all the powers and authority now granted to the MBTA Board of Directors, whom Candaras says have failed to stabilize the finances.
The proposed MBTA control board is modeled after the appointed board that was put in charge of Springfield after the city received a $60 million state bailout in 2004. The Springfield Finance Control Board was in place for 5 years.