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Elections and Politics

Riders Are Skeptical That This Election Will Make Much Difference at the T

A man in a blue ballcap and white collared shirt sits on a bench in front of an MBTA rapid transit map inside a subway station.

Roxbury resident Christian Vazquez, pictured waiting for the Orange Line in Downtown Crossing, says that the T’s problems are “not a big issue” in his choices for this fall’s election.

On the eve of Election Day in downtown Boston, it was hard to find any transit riders for whom transportation would be a top issue at the ballot box, in spite of the numerous safety issues and service interruptions that riders have endured over the past few months.

Voters will pick a new Governor tomorrow, elect lawmakers to represent them in the State House, and decide four major statewide referendums – including Question 1, the “Fair Share Amendment,” which would increase the tax rate on residents who earn more than $1 million a year and devote the new revenue to public education and to transportation infrastructure, and Question 4, which would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license.

Those races will decide who will be next in line to run the MBTA, and will have significant influence over how much public money is available for the T and other statewide transit services in the years to come.

But among the riders we met at downtown subway stations and bus stops on Monday afternoon, it was hard to find anyone for whom transit service would be a major issue at the polls.

Fixing the T "is a process and we gotta be patient. It's getting better. I'd be mad if there were no change," said Christian Vazquez, a Roxbury resident, while waiting for the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing Monday afternoon. "As a voter, it's not a big issue right now."

Vazquez also said he was "still thinking about" Question 1, the increased tax rate for high-income earners.

"I worry it'll keep inflation going up," he told us. "Lawyers and doctors, we're still going to need them and they can just raise their prices on us" to pay higher tax rates.

A few stops away at Haymarket, Flor Torres of Hyde Park, a daily T rider, said that the past summer's interruption of Orange Line service was "really hard," but also expressed skepticism about whether a new Governor would really work to improve transit in neighborhoods like hers.

"They're doing more, like the longer Green Line, but what about the poor people living in Mattapan?" asked Torres. "We're doing jobs nobody else wants to do – things like cleaning buildings and childcare – but they don't think about us."

Kaya Lee of the South End, who was also waiting for an Orange Line train at Haymarket Monday afternoon, also said that the T's issues wouldn't be a big factor in how she would vote tomorrow.

"It's crazy how the subway just shuts down," Lee admitted. "But my big issue is women's rights and Roe v. Wade."

Above ground, at the Haymarket bus stop, we met Merlene Harris, a Salem resident who was waiting to catch a 450 bus back home.

Harris had already voted, and when we asked Harris whether the T's problems had factored at all into her choices, her answer was "no, because I'm retired."

Harris also told us that she had voted yes on question one – not because she expected to get better bus service from the new tax revenue, but because "they (people earning over $1 million a year) should pay more than I should."

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