Today is the launch of the newly formed MBTA Legislative Caucus. With financial challenges at the T, and the critical need to improve public transportation for both economic and environmental reasons, I am very excited by what opportunities this Caucus will create.
I am proud to see this caucus organizing by such a geographically diverse group of House and Senate members. I am joined by Senators Pat Jehlen (Somerville) & Jamie Eldridge (Acton), along with Representatives Sean Garballey (Arlington), Katherine Clark (Melrose), Mary Grant (Beverly), Denise Provost (Somerville), Byron Rushing (Boston), Joyce Spiliotis (Peabody), and Alice Wolf (Cambridge). We expect many others to be joining us today as well.
Rep. Wolf and I have already filed legislation dealing with the MBTA’s financial crisis, which is the result of a crushing debt burden placed on the T by the state, as well as by the sales tax revenues coming in below projections over the past several years. We were successful this past spring, as a part of the transportation reform debate, to target an additional $160 million to the MBTA from the sales tax increase. While that addressed the T’s projected deficit for the current fiscal year, it does not address the long-term financial stability of the system. The administration ordered a top to bottom financial review of the T, and I expect we will see the debate over a fare increases to begin again.
The MBTA Caucus will be meeting today with T advocates from organizations including the T Riders Union, MassPIRG, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Smart Growth Alliance, and the On the Move Coalition. We have invited these groups to share their views on the current challenges facing the T, as well as their view of the long-term challenges and potentials for improvements to the system.
The goal of the caucus is in part to advocate for the financial needs of the T and its riders (both the inner core service area, and the outlying commuter rail users). But we also need a coordinated effort in the legislature to present a vision of what is possible long term, and to help make Massachusetts a leader in providing high quality, accessible, and affordable public transportation.
With limited resources, and so many of our transportation dollars drained away into road projects, we need a coordinated effort to prioritize the needs of public transportation in the legislature. The MBTA Legislative Caucus will give us a forum in which to do the planning and organizing work necessary, and to provide a public transportation system our T riders across the state, from Haverhill to Braintree, and from Worcester to Boston, can be proud of.