The scores of T riders who complained to MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis about proposed service cuts at a Jamaica Plain meeting on Feb. 1 probably did not know that they were speaking to one of their own.
The MBTA’s universally hated plan would kill the 326 express bus from Medford that Davis rides daily, he told the Gazette in a hallway interview at the Hennigan School meeting.
“As a rider, it doesn’t make me feel very good, because I use it to get to work every day,” Davis said of his agency’s own plan to boost fares and cut service.
Davis was quick to add that, unlike many T riders, he has other transportation options. That includes the Orange Line subway and, according to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, a car that Davis shares with his wife but typically does not use. Davis responded to many questions at that meeting and another last month in Roxbury, but never mentioned the plan’s impact on himself.
Davis and Pesaturo also traveled to the meeting by public transit–namely, the Green Line E branch streetcar/trolley that the MBTA’s plan would controversially stop running on the weekends.
“It was great,” Davis said of his E Line ride. “I think we run a great service.”
But the MBTA is proposing to slash that service, among many others, in an effort to close a $161 million budget gap this year alone. Low tax revenues, enormous debt and a legal requirement for a balanced budget are forcing the MBTA’s hand.
“We’re transit people. We don’t like making these recommendations,” Davis said.
Over 150 people at the meeting didn’t like hearing the recommendations, either. They roundly protested the plan as unjust and unnecessary. Among the organizations protesting were the Transit Riders Union and Occupy JP.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and state Rep. Liz Malia were among the JP elected officials who said the state legislature is to blame for the debt and funding crisis. They urged people to contact friends outside of Boston to pressure suburban and rural legislators who are not so eager to fund a system their constituents may not use. A common theme from elected officials and residents was that the MBTA should stop proposing severe cuts and instead partner with the community to lobby for a budget fix.
“I don’t think that’s the MBTA’s role,” Davis told the Gazette in response to that idea. Its job is simply to run a transit service and come up with a budget within the given guidelines, he said. But public input will inform that budget, he said, and he clearly was eager to hear the protests.
Asked about the possibility of getting rid of the MBTA’s balanced budget requirement and operating under a deficit, Davis said, “I don’t think I’d be a proponent of that.” Among other things, such a budget move likely would prevent the MBTA from purchasing new equipment and maintaining what it has, he said.