Madaro Testifies in Support of His Low-Income MBTA Fare Program

Since taking office Rep. Adrian Madaro has emerged as a proponent of closing the equity gap for East Boston commuters who rely on public transportation to get back and forth to jobs, medical appointments and school. 

This week Madaro testified in favor of his bill (H.3526) to establish a low-income fare program for low-income workers that use the MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) across the state.

“For low-income workers transit is a lifeline,” said Madaro. “Even before COVID fares were unaffordable for many. Public transit is critical to an equitable recovery from the pandemic and a low-income fare program will ensure transit is affordable & accessible for all our residents. We need to guarantee that public transit is affordable and accessible to those who rely on it most.”

In his testimony to the joint committee on transportation, Madaro said countless residents in Eastie and across the Commonwealth use busses, subway, trains, and ferries on a daily basis to get to work, to go school, to make doctors appointments, to run emands, and to travel around the cities and communities they live in.

“Although we saw a temporary decrease in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has been steadily returning to pre-covid numbers,” said Madaro. “But even during the pandemic, some lines saw less of a decrease than others. In my district of East Boston, ridership on the Blue Line remained so steady throughout the pandemic that the MBTA actually had to reverse their planned service cuts just to keep up with demands. Many of the people who continued to ride public transit during the pandemic did so because they had no other choice. They did not have the luxury of working from home. As essential workers, their jobs required them to continue to go into work every day to keep the Commonwealth running.”

Madaro said despite the praise that we have given essential workers throughout the pandemic, the fact remains that many of them, especially in the service and custodial industries, tend to be among the lowest income earners in the Commonwealth.

“For these low-income workers, public transportation has been a lifeline,” he said. “The pandemic disproportionately burdened low-income communities and communities of color, throwing many further into economic insecurity. Many faced unemployment, and even those who kept their jobs were hit hard by the economic effects of COVID. Even before the pandemic, low-income riders were struggling to afford bus and train fares, especially in light of fare increases on the MBTA in recent years.”

Madaro explained that his legislation would require the MBTA to implement a low income fare program to provide free or discounted fare options to qualifying riders and assistance to RTAs across the Commonwealth to implement similar programs throughout their systems.

“In implementing low income fares, the bill requires the MBTA and RTAs to develop stakeholder engagement plans, providing opportunity for public input, as well as conducting a full implementation analysis that will examine eligibility for the program, cost, the amount of discount, and rider benefits,” said Madaro. “Reducing or eliminating fares for low-income riders would ensure that those who need public transit most are able to access it at rates affordable to them. Additionally, it would also drive up the use of public transit and encourage more workers to use the system to travel to and from their jobs and other appointments, thus reducing vehicular congestion on our roads.”

Madaro added that the public transportation system is critical to an equitable recovery from the pandemic.

“This legislation would help to address long standing inequalities exacerbated by COVID through making public transit more affordable to those who need it most,” he said. “Luckily, most of the groundwork for this bill has already been done. The language of this bill is essentially identical to that passed by the General Court at the end of last session in the Transportation Bond Bill. It was only foiled by the Governor’s Veto and unfortunate timing. With all due respect to the Governor, I disagree. I think this legislation is more important now than ever to increase access to public transportation. I ask that the committee report this bill out favorably, and I encourage the legislature to pass this once again to guarantee affordable transit and mobility to residents across the Commonwealth.”

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