Higher Fares Take Effect, and Elected Officials Respond With a ‘Boston T Party’

A derailed Red Line car blocks the tracks at the JFK/UMass station on June 11, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Boston Fire Department.
A derailed Red Line car blocks the tracks at the JFK/UMass station on June 11, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Boston Fire Department.

A fare increase for most MBTA subway and commuter rail tickets takes effect today, but dozens of local elected officials and activists are responding with a “Boston T Party” during this morning’s commute.

The higher prices take effect nearly three weeks after a Red Line train went off the rails at the JFK/UMass station and caused a cascade of delays and crippling congestion for transit riders and drivers throughout the region. 

The derailment destroyed a significant portion of the line’s signal systems, and as a result, service on the Red Line is expected to remain hobbled through the rest of the summer.

“Our transportation system is in crisis, and the costs of delay and inaction continue to fall on families who can least afford alternatives,” Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu said in a statement issued Sunday morning. “It’s time to marshal the political will for urgent progress toward a public transit system that serves everyone.”

Wu has been the chief organizer of this morning’s protest, which she announced in a June 20 tweet, a day after she published an op-ed in the Boston Globe to call for more representation from local officials on the T’s oversight board.

In the 10 days since then, the event has picked up considerable momentum from other local elected officials and advocates. Wu’s press office released a bulleted list of over 50 stations across the subway and commuter rail system where riders could expect to meet local city councilors, council candidates and state legislators during Monday morning’s commute.

A survey of Orange Line stops in Boston on Monday morning found one or two volunteers passing out flyers at each station. The handouts urged riders to contact their elected officials and ask them to support increasing the gas tax to fund the MBTA and other Regional Transit Authorities across the state, more bus-only lanes, and “congestion pricing on major roadways in Metro Boston to better manage traffic.”

While most commuters were focused on catching their trains, a few stopped to take flyers and gripe about the MBTA with volunteer canvassers.

“It’s already the source of so much uncertainty and anxiety for people, and now they’re charging more,” said Linda Roistacher, a retiree from Jamaica Plain who was handing out flyers at the Green Street Orange Line stop Monday morning.

Elsewhere, state Rep. Mike Connolly of Cambridge spoke to riders at Central Square, and Rep. Adrian Madaro, Vice Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, joined Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards at the Maverick Blue Line stop:

Participants are posting updates on social media under the #UnfairTHikes and #BostonTParty hashtags.

One name is conspicuously absent from the morning’s events: that of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been in Honolulu for the last several days to attend the Climate Mayors Summit. Walsh did tweet about the fare hike early Monday morning:

Chris Osgood, Boston’s Chief of Streets, spoke out against the fare hike on behalf of Mayor Walsh at the June 17 joint meeting of the MassDOT and MBTA boards.

Osgood acknowledged that the Walsh administration had been supportive of the fare increase this winter, when it was approved by the MBTA board. But that support had come with the assumption that a better rider experience was on the way.

Since then, expected improvements like the new Orange Line cars and a new fare payment system have been delayed.

“Right now it is unfair to ask our riders and our residents to be paying more when there is actually a reduction in the quality of service in our system,” said Osgood.

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