By John Lynds
Last week in front of the MBTA Fiscal Control and Management Board, State Representative Adrian Madaro testified at a hearing on the MBTA’s late night service that fell victim to budget cuts, but is essential to many hard working East Boston commuters that rely on late night service to get to and from downtown.
“I am here before you today once again to encourage you to expeditiously resolve the ongoing issues with late night T service,” Madaro told the board. “This is of paramount concern to my community – with no late night T service, how do East Boston residents commute home? The barriers of bridges, tunnels, and the Boston Harbor make affordable transportation home impossible for late night commuters.”
Madaro said without a late night public transportation option, his constituents must spend nearly 20 percent of their pretax income just to get home from work.
“For a minimum wage workers in East Boston, this is an undue hardship, making this issue truly one of equity,” he said. “If you had to spend nearly 20% of your pretax income just to commute home from work, what kind of sacrifices would you be forced to make? How would this impact your family? These questions are a reality for many of my constituents.”
Thousands of Boston residents are employed in professions that require them to work during nontraditional hours, including over 19.3 percent who work in healthcare and social services, and 9.5 percent who service the hospitality industry.
“For almost 30 percent of Bostonians, being able to traverse the city from corner to corner in a reliable, affordable manner is necessary for job stability, economic security, and sustaining a high quality of life,” said Madaro. “These concerns are amplified for residents of my district who cannot afford or rely on regular access to a car. East Boston residents who work in any other neighborhood of Boston are unable to bike or walk through the Sumner or Ted Williams Tunnels when the T is out of service. Nor can they swim home across the harbor. When my constituents cannot get home after work via public transportation, they are forced to rely on expensive, luxury transportation methods like taxis or livery services to get where they need to go. Again, eliminating late-night access to the MBTA is not just a matter of convenience – it is a threat to transportation equity.”
Madaro said In an effort to develop a firsthand understanding of the financial impact that this quandary places on families and minimum wage workers, he tested all options available to his constituents during the last few days of the T’s late night service.
“A commute that costs only $2.75 on the MBTA costs over $20.20 via taxi and $16.49 via Lyft,” said Madaro. “A constituent earning minimum wage and relying on this measure of transportation five nights per week would spend roughly 18 percent of their pretax income commuting home from work.”
As staggering as these numbers are, what impacted Madaro the most about this experience was his trip home via the T.
“In the mere 24 minutes and 31 seconds it took me to travel home from downtown Boston, I observed and, in some cases, spoke with my fellow riders,” said Madaro. “They were not college-aged students who hopped on the T after a bar crawl, and they were not upper middle class residents returning home after a night on the town–though the late-night T provides an excellent alternative for these riders, too. They were Bostonians – members of our community, wearily commuting home after working late into the night. They were healthcare aides, servers, bartenders, janitors, and chefs to name a few. They were trying to provide for their families. They were trying to build a better future for themselves. And – as many of us feel after a long day at work – they were looking forward to the comforts of home.”
Madaro concluded that eliminating late-night MBTA service is a regressive measure that will disproportionately impact members of his community that need help the most.
“As you review the merits of late night T service I hope you take a moment to consider how your life would change if you had to spend so much of your income just to commute home, and think how many lives could be improved with effective and affordable late night public transportation options,” he said.