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Green Medford seeks to educate the Medford community to understand our environmental impact, and to empower members of our community to make more sustainable energy choices related to homes and businesses, transportation, and food.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Green Medford's Letter on MBTA Service/Fare Proposals

We submitted this letter to the MBTA email address for this issue, which is:

fareproposal@mbta.com

Please copy if you wish and send your own version. Deadline for comments is March 12, 2012.

_________

Our organization, Green Medford, wishes to express our opposition to the MBTA’s proposed fare increases and service cuts. Green Medford is a group of volunteer activists dedicated to taking action to reducing Medford’s carbon emissions.

A few of the extremely negative consequences that would result from the implementation of either of these proposals include:

1. Increased air pollution and carbon emissions (leading us away from addressing climate change).

2. An increase in health problems due to air pollution.

3. Economic downturn in Medford and other communities affected by the service cuts, as T riders take to cars and completely bypass the community small businesses that currently receive their patronage.

4. Increased wear and tear on highways and other major arteries, due to increased car traffic.

5. Increased traffic congestion.

These costs will undoubtedly outweigh the value of increased revenues from the higher fares. Equally concerning is the fact that all of these negatives will be disproportionately felt by low-income, senior, and disabled persons.

We especially oppose the proposed service cuts. In many instances, these cuts will eliminate access for those dependent upon public transportation. In other instances, these service cuts will force riders to shift to automobiles. Either outcome is unacceptable.

Several Medford buses are slated for elimination or cutbacks in both proposals: 80, 95, 96, 325, 326, and 134. One end of Medford has an Orange Line Stop (Wellington), and the very limited Commuter Rail stop in West Medford. Otherwise there are no subway stops anywhere in Medford or near it. Medford residents rely heavily on bus routes to get around. We do not have a wealthy population, and any decrease in bus service would negatively impact residents to a very great degree. Residents who currently take one bus (e.g., the 96 to Davis Square Red Line) would have to take two, three, or four buses instead, greatly increasing the time and inconvenience of their commutes. Many, rather than do so, would instead take to cars, thereby increasing pollution and carbon emissions, causing more wear and tear on our already stressed road system, and contributing to worse traffic, which is already severe in parts of Medford, not to mention the rest of the greater Boston area.

We are also aware of the Commonwealth’s leadership on issues affecting climate change, such as the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Communities Act. We applaud these commitments to take real and lasting steps towards reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions and building a more sustainable future. The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 charts the path for achieving a 25% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020 (below 1990 levels). In this context, it is especially ironic and disheartening to witness the failure to protect and support our public transportation system, which is a vital component in any plan for reducing GHG emissions and the principle means by which we can maintain a sustainable, prosperous region into the future.

While we are aware of the deep financial difficulties the MBTA is facing, and agree that some modest fair hikes may be appropriate, we are also mindful of the tragic negative impacts likely to ensue if either of the proposals were implemented. We largely agree with the suggestions made in the MBTA Advisory Board’s February 2012 Review of MASSDOT Fare Increase and Service Cut Proposals, especially the goal of restructuring funding for public transportation. We need a long-term solution, not a short-term fix. We urge you to hold out for an overhaul of the way the T is funded.

We urge the MBTA and our elected leaders to seek other solutions to the MBTA’s fiscal difficulties to avoid these devastating impacts. The MBTA Advisory Board’s proposals for alternative funding sources appear promising in this regard, as do other thoughtful approaches, such as congestion pricing or increased parking fees that would have beneficial synergistic effects on travel choices in our region. It would be particularly short-sighted to cripple our public transportation system just when we need it most.

Sincerely,

Susan Altman

President, Green Medford

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