State Rep. Joseph McGonagle spoke at an MBTA virtual public meeting on Nov. 17 regarding the cuts in MBTA services being proposed as a result of the significant decrease in MBTA ridership and overall revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his remarks, McGonagle emphasized the importance of ‘The Ride’ to Everett residents.
McGonagle told Mass. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollak that any cuts in services puts a burden on the city’s essential workers.
“I’m nervous with this pandemic that any ridership cuts put another unfair burden on our essential workers,” said McGonagle. “We’re going to be overloading buses and I’m nervous about that. That’s a great concern, especially in all the gateway cities.”
McGonagle also affirmed his support for the MBTA’s “Ride” program in which seniors are transported to medical appointments and other destinations essential to their health and well-being.
“The other thing that concerns me is The Ride,” said McGonagle. “I don’t want you to forget how important The Ride is, especially to our seniors in our communities. It’s extremely important. I get the phone calls from the seniors worrying that those services will be cut also. Please, I’m begging you to take that into consideration. I’m praying that this transportation bond bill would get passed in this session. That can be a help to all of us, too.”
McGonagle’s remarks followed opening comments by Secretary Pollak and MBTA Chief Engineer Eric Stoothoff about the cuts in services.
“First and perhaps most importantly, I do want to emphasize that the MBTA is not doing this because we want to reduce service,” said Pollak. “We are doing that because we need to reduce service. The MBTA has been working for all the years that I have been Secretary to improve service, to provide better service to its customers, to increase its capital spending, and to make the system better.”
Pollak said because of the COVID-19 pandemic “the number of people who are using the MBTA has dropped a lot.”
She said the amount of fare revenue and parking revenue generated by MBTA riders has dropped significantly during the pandemic.
“We’re providing about the same service as we were a year ago for 1.3 million riders, but there are only 330,000 people a day are using the system,” related Pollak. “While we understand that service cuts are difficult, it is not the best use of the money from taxpayers, local communities, or those of you who ride the MBTA system and pay fares to ride buses or trains or ferries that are empty or nearly empty and that is where the focus of this process is.”
Pollak concluded that the MBTA has designed this process – called “Forging Ahead” – “to protect our most essential services and our most vulnerable riders, and the riders who depend on the ‘T.”
“While we’ve done our best to define what those most important services are, we are holding these public meetings in order to get feedback and we will take it very seriously,” she said. “That’s why I’m here to listen to list and and that’s why [MBTA Fiscal and Management Control] Director Brian Lang is here directly to listen.”
Pollak indicated that the proposed changes in MBTA service would not take effect immediately.
“They will be phased in during 2021 with commuter rail service [changes] perhaps staring as early as January but most of the changes on subways and buses would not occur until spring or summer,” said Pollak.