Members of the Fiscal Management and Control Board, good afternoon and thank you for taking the time to hear me today. My name is Sebastian Zapata and I am the Program Director for the Alliance for Business Leadership. The Alliance is a coalition of progressive business leaders united in the belief that social responsibility and sustainable economic growth go hand-in-hand. I come before you to respectfully express our opposition to the proposed MBTA fare hikes, and to ask that the MBTA should abide by modest, regular increases of 5% every two years, as outlined in the 2013 transportation package.
We fully understand the need for new investments in the MBTA – in fact, we believe that such investments are crucial for the long-term health of the Massachusetts economy – but suggest that the burden for raising these funds should not be placed on those for whom the MBTA is not just an option, but it is often the only option.
We fear that either of the proposed options will unfairly impact youth, senior, low-income, and disabled riders the who depend on the MBTA – people who are taking public transportation to school so that they can grow up to contribute to our economy, who are taking public transportation to work so that they can support themselves and their families, or who are taking public transportation to access the many health care, business and cultural institutions that keep our economy humming. Hurting those people hurts all of us.
Additionally, the MBTA should be seeking to increase ridership, but these proposals will jeopardize that growth. Discouraging the use of public transportation is bad for the environment, and is bad for public health. Once again, hurting commuters by steering them away from the MBTA hurts all of us.
If this board decides to move forward with either proposal, the MBTA will be depriving individuals access to opportunity, due to the fact they can no longer afford to ride the MBTA. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is home to one of the highest skilled and intellectually gifted workforces in the country, as well as too many people with no other options. Discouraging any of these riders from using transit is strategically misguided.
On a personal note, I ride the MBTA every day, and have for years. It is how I got to school when I was a student. It was how I got to my first job when I was fresh out of college and looking to make use of my new degree here in the state where I grew up. And still today it is how I get to work, looking to advance my career and contribute to the Commonwealth. Being able to access affordable and reliable public transportation has been a crucial part of that path for me. And I am not alone.
Additional investments in the MBTA are needed, but not at the sole expense of riders’ wallets and trust. The Alliance urges the Board to keep faith with the MBTA’s ridership and act in accordance with what the legislature intended only three years ago.
I thank you for your time,
Alliance for Business Leadership