Affordable, Accessible Transportation
We believe affordable and accessible public transportation is a basic human right, especially for seniors and people with disabilities. Paratransit (i.e. The RIDE, Demand Response, Door2Door) is a lifeline for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route service (buses and trains) some or all of the time. For many, paratransit service is their only way to access work, family, friends, and medical care. The median incomes of those who depend on paratransit is significantly lower than other residents – leaving them more vulnerable to high transit fares.
Most recently, MSAC received encouraging news that the MBTA has agreed to take cuts to The RIDE premium service off the table (for now), and to collaborate with other advocates to identify possible alternative cost savings that will not harm riders and could even make improvements to RIDE services (such as taxi vouchers). The so-called "premium" trips simply refer to trips that the MBTA is not mandated to provide under the federal ADA. The MBTA has provided this service for decades, however, and last year RIDErs took 210,000 such trips.
In the final weeks of 2015, the MBTA's Fiscal and Management Control Board was considering cutting premium service entirely in order to reduce a projected $242 million deficit at the T for fiscal 2017. Without premium service thousands would have no transportation access to medical appointments, grocery trips, and social opportunities to visit family and friends. Read more below for the backstory on MSAC's RIDE campaign.
On July 1, 2012, MBTA officials doubled fares for The RIDE service from $2 to $4 one-way—compared to the average 23-percent increase for all other modes of MBTA transit. The extreme fare hike led to a nearly 20 percent decrease in ridership and substantial hardship for many seniors and people with disabilities. Many were forced to spend less on other basic needs like food and medications just to use the service, and many others felt imprisoned in their homes, with no affordable way to get around.
MSAC and other allies (including Boston Center for Independent Living, the Bay State Council of the Blind, and the Public Transit Public Good Coalition) knew this reality and tried to work with legislators and transit officials to implement an equitable solution.
After two years of organizing--attending MassDOT Board meetings, public outreach, and eventually civil disobedience that led to multiple MSAC members' arrests--MSAC convinced the MBTA to yield and reduce the RIDE fare by $1, to $3 one-way. This was an unprecedented victory that will save over 30,000 RIDErs over $2 million each year. Moreover, the Board committed to designing and implementing (with MSAC) a pilot program for a tiered-fare structure based on income. This pilot program launched in July 2015.
It might be tempting to see the fare rollback and pilot program as a solution, but we all know that the pain will continue to run deep for many seniors and people with disabilities unless paratransit is a legislative priority. Other regional transit authorities, including the Pioneer Valley TA and Southeastern Regional TA, have proposed similar fare hikes to baseline services and backed down due to public pressure. We must remain vigilant and continue to work for full equity until everyone gets full, affordable access to the transportation they need.