Many Bostonians are upset by the MBTA’s fare increases and service cuts going into effect in July. We’re angered by the eleven dollar increase for a monthly pass. We’re concerned that we won’t be able to ride the E Line on weekends. We’re frustrated that we must pay fifty cents more for a bus that is ALWAYS late.
But it could be worse. At least we have the option to walk. Disabled and elderly Bostonians who rely on the RIDE program definitely got the worse end of the MBTA budget deal, leading them to protest on Monday May 21st. Protesters chained their wheelchairs together, blocking traffic in front of the state house, until police threatened to pull them from their chairs.
The protest was supported by the T Riders Union, a program of Alternatives for Community and Environment, as well as other community organizations. The T Riders Union is leading the movement opposed to the MBTA budget proposal, protesting the fare hikes and service cuts and advocating for improved MBTA service. Most of their previous marches and protests were comprised of mostly students, rather than disabled patrons. However, this row of wheelchairs, chained together and blocking traffic, seems to send a stronger message than another frustrated student group marching through the streets.
There is reason for the disabled to take such drastic measures. The cost of a one-way trip on RIDE is currently $2.00 and will be increased to $4.00 in July (more details on MBTA website). Yes, that means each time a disabled person uses RIDE to go to the doctor, grocery store, or anywhere else, they must pay $8.00 for a round trip.
The RIDE increases initially received little attention in the media coverage of the MBTA budget proposals, likely because only a small number of Bostonians will be affected by these especially high increases. However, I feel that these increases are the most unfortunate measure, as they will have a large economic impact on those who may already be overwhelmed with doctor’s fees, prescriptions and other costs.
But don’t get me wrong. The MBTA’s choice to increase the cost of RIDE the most was not mean-spirited or an attempt to attribute an unfair amount of debt to a minority group. The RIDE is very expensive, as it offers its passengers door-to-door pick-up and drop-off and, unlike the T or buses, it isn’t restricted to certain routes. However, many disabled Bostonians rely on the RIDE, and the RIDE’s door-to-door service is necessary for disabled patrons.
Therefore, we need to work with MBTA towards solutions that will protect transportation for the disabled while maintaining its affordability. One way to accomplish this is by continuing MBTA’s effort to build handicap-accessible subway stations, so disabled Bostonians rely on RIDE less. Perhaps MBTA could work to organize carpool volunteers in each community. The possibilities for improvement are endless. What are your ideas?
-Marilyn Willmoth, Future Boston Intern