Mayor Michelle Wu and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey spoke on the MBTA dysfunction at a press event Monday morning, touching on a potential FTA takeover, fare free rides and the “breaking point” of the T’s crumbling infrastructure.
“It will be chaos,” Wu said, referencing the “unprecedented, painful” shutdown of the Orange Line from Aug. 19 to Sept. 18 and the partial shutdown of the Green Line from Aug. 6 to Aug. 21. “We never should have gotten to this point.”
“But it is because of decades of delayed action, deferred maintenance, starving our public transit system of the resources that it needed,” Wu said, noting that the MBTA carries more debt than any other public transit agency in the country. “We are fighting to make sure that this moment is one where we start to make right finally.”
Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge tweeted updates Monday regarding plans for shuttle buses, keeping bus routes clear and other alternative transit options during the shutdown.
With service interruptions and safety incidents proliferating, federal officials have suggested that the Federal Transit Administration may soon need to take over for the beleaguered MBTA.
Both Wu and Markey pushed back on this idea, saying the transit organization needs federal partnership, not a takeover.
“With any service, the most important thing, I believe, is for those who experience it every day to have a direct voice in shaping it,” said Wu. “The further away you get in terms of federal oversight of a local service or complete takeover, raises some concerns.”
“In fact, we should be going the other direction,” she continued. “The city of Boston and many of our municipalities in the metro area have been fighting for direct seats on the MBTA governing board.”
A proposal to do so progressed through the state legislature, but died when legislators ran out of time to get it across the finish line.
Wu and Markey also voiced support for making the public transit free in the city during the shutdown.
“Public transportation is another one of those cornerstones that underlie everything and the more people ride, the more everyone benefits,” Wu said, pointing to the connections between accessible public transit ties and climate change. “Even if you’re not directly on that train or bus, you’re breathing cleaner air, you’re experiencing a faster commute yourself. So any mechanism that ensure we’re removing barriers goes a long way.”
Wu did not speak to any concrete plans to make the T fare free, but did remind residents that shuttle buses and, with a Charlie Card, the commuter rail will be free during the shutdown inside the Orange Line zones.
Wu also referenced her support for Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley’s proposed Freedom to Move Act, which would funnel billions of dollars to fund and incentivize free access to transit in cities around the U.S. The bill has stalled in the House.
“When I was a boy, the T worked,” said Markey. “How can it be, all these years later, that it doesn’t work? We’re in the 21st century. We just have to spend the money, use all our technological capabilities to get this fixed once and for all.”
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BOSTON, MA.- Sen. Ed Markey looks on as Mayor Michelle Wu speaks about the Senate passing of the Inflation Act of 2022 during a press conference at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building on August 8, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) BOSTON, MA.- People look over as an MBTA Orange Line train approaches the Downtown Crossing station on August 8, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)