It was an unusual scene in front of the Massachusetts State House Monday morning. Horns blared and traffic came to a standstill for more than a half hour as a group of seniors and people with disabilities blocked cars on Beacon Street to call attention to skyrocketing fares for the MBTA’s RIDE paratransit service.
In all, four of the transit demonstrators were arrested, while those in wheelchairs were moved out of the street by police officers. Organized by Massachusetts Senior Action Council (MSAC), the confrontation came just minutes before the House began their debate on a transportation budget that has been widely derided as woefully inadequate by transit users and advocates.
RIDE users and advocates contend that the disproportionate fare increases levied against passengers requiring paratransit services – 100 to 150% compared to 23% for standard riders – has left many low-income seniors and people with disabilities stranded. The more-than-doubled fares have prompted an 18% decline in RIDE use since the last round of budgeting in July 2012. MassDOT and the MBTA, have refused to acknowledge the gravity of the problem, instead announcing the possibility of $6.5 million in additional budget cuts to The RIDE. Not to be outdone, the legislature has ruled out any meaningful action to protect the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents, opting to put yet another short-term Band-Aid on our broke and broken transit system.
One thing’s for certain: affected riders aren’t going to let this fiscal fiasco go on without a fight, and this week’s demonstrations were just the opening salvo. Check out the video below to see footage from the event: