[Editor's note: The information below was issued in a press statement from the Office of Rep. James Dwyer.]
I hope this edition of our legislative update finds you and your family well. Over the course of the next 5 months, the Legislature will be working hard to address many issues including health care cost containment, public safety legislation that includes a strong habitual offender sentencing law, and the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. While the first year of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session was productive in many ways, we are faced with remaining challenges that need to be addressed.
MBTA proposed fare increases and service cuts
As many of you know, the MBTA recently released two proposals that involved fare increases and service cuts that would greatly impact Woburn, Reading, and Stoneham. I find these proposals to be unacceptable and it brings to light important structural problems with not only the MBTA’s finances for this year, but the foundation of their way of doing business. After speaking with many of my constituents and attending briefings related to the MBTA’s proposals, we need to take a multi-faceted approach at fixing this problem.
First, we need to look at the veracity of the data that the MBTA provided as evidence for the need of these proposals. I have heard from many constituents that on many bus routes, bus drivers wave monthly pass customers on without having them being counted as a rider through the fare machine. This skews the numbers of the bus routes, leaving them as evidently “underused” routes. The numbers are incorrect because ridership isn’t being properly accounted for.
Secondly, we need to look at the way the MBTA has been operating with regards to the management of its finances. Commuters and taxpayers cannot afford to have the MBTA operating through the same business model that it did for three decades. Adding more website availability or “CharlieCards” or MBTA merchandise is not the answer to a new business model. It needs to start from the ground up. The MBTA can’t continue to use the same business practices that continue to saddle the taxpayers with rising costs, while allowing the trains, buses and ferries that make up the MBTA to deteriorate, especially when we see in the media that the MBTA is turning down millions of dollars in advertising opportunities from various commercial interests.
Third, we need to insist that the state government upholds its promises when it comes to “smart growth” projects. For instance, areas such as the Commerce Way Overlay District in Woburn or the Haven Street smart growth project in Reading are two examples of how communities can market the fact that they have accessible, quality public transportation available. In drastically reducing services on the commuter rail and bus lines, these areas become less attractive for smart growth projects and could alter the outcomes of impending projects. Communities, commuters, and local business need stability and certainty when it comes to public transportation.
In conclusion, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to address the debt problem that the MBTA was saddled with after the Big Dig and federal mandates came down for MBTA capital improvements in the 1980s and 1990s. The debt issue is at the heart of the problem and without addressing it with short-term relief and long-term financial planning we will continue to kick the can down the road.
For more information, including the public hearing schedule, and contacts to relay your concerns to the MBTA regarding the proposal, please visit http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/
Recently, the Legislature passed a supplemental budget to increase funding in fuel assistance programs for those with low-incomes and senior citizens. This increase in funding was a result of the federal government continuing to cut back on funding that it returns to the states for fuel assistance. Although we have yet to experience the usual amounts of snow for the region, temperatures have been dropping to their winter norms. If you know of someone who needs fuel assistance, or are in need of fuel assistance yourself, you can apply at the Malden TRI-CAP which is located at 110 Pleasant Street in Malden. The phone number at TRI-CAP is 781-322-6284. Also, another program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can be reached at 1-800-632-8175
Double poles left behind by the utility companies have become a growing nuisance across our district. Recently, I attended a hearing held by the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy to discuss this growing problem and how we can rectify the situation. I have also been in contact with Verizon and NStar to ask them to open better lines of communication with cities and towns, but most importantly, to get the job done. Not only are the double poles nuisances or eye-sores, but they are also a public safety hazard. I look forward to working with the utilities and the Committee to make sure that backlog of double pole replacements is whittled down so that there are no double poles left in our communities.
Upcoming office hours will be held on February 27th, March 19th, and April 23rd in Woburn from 3-4pm in the Woburn City Hall Committee Room and in Reading from 4:30-5:30pm in the Reading Public Library Conference Room. Starting in March, office hours will also be held at 10am at the Woburn Senior Center on the third Monday of the month. If you are unable to attend office hours and have an issue you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me at 617-722-2220 or via email at James.Dwyer@mahouse.gov