Superheros organize MBTA rally at the State House

By Mounira Al Hmoud

BOSTON – Members of advocacy groups and unions dressed in superhero costumes rallied at the State House Thursday to oppose the MBTA’s plan to raise fares and cut services.

A crowd of around 50, dotted with blue capes worn by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council and red by other organizations including the T Riders Union and On the Move Coalition, gathered on the steps of the State House to bang drums and chant “Save the T,” and “No More Cuts.”

The demonstrators met with Mo Cowan, Gov. Deval Patrick’s Chief of Staff, delivering petitions that offered their self-named Fast Five solutions to save money, including the use of surplus snow and ice removal money to pay down the MBTA’s debt and implementing the UPass program at universities.

The three other solutions are for the MBTA to renegotiate their bad interest rates swap with banks, to hold MBCR accountable of its service, and for MASSPORT to assume operations of the Silver line bus to Logan Airport as well as ferry services.

“We want funding that would help all the Regional Transportation Authority not just the MBTA,” said Lee Matsueda, program director for the T Riders Union at ACE.

Cowan congratulated them for their mobilization but said that if no service cuts could be avoided, he promised they would be fair, accurate, and proportional.

“I applaud all of you for being active, your concerns have been heard,” said Cowan, “but the reality is that our transportation system is unfunded.”

Paul Spooner, executive director of the MetroWest Center for Independent Living, who was not at the rally, called the MBTA’s propositions unfair.

“The MBTA wants to cut services and increase fare for the para-transit system, which serves people with disabilities and elders,” said Spooner. “Their fare hikes would be three to four times higher than what has been proposed for bus services and most of these people live with limited resources.”

Spooner said one of his staff would end up paying $24 a day to commute to Framingham, compared with $8 today.

“All of the consequences are not well tough-out or well planned at all,” said Spooner. “Their financial problem comes from the Big Dig and has nothing to do with commuters, I don’t see why people would have to pay for cars.”

The T is facing a $161 million deficit this year. It has held more than 30 public meetings throughout the state and is reviewing testimony before voting on fare and service issues on April 4.

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