Open Letter to Governor Baker: Protect Public Transit in Leicester & Worcester
Dear Governor Baker,
In your 2018 State of the Commonwealth address, you assured the residents of Massachusetts that your administration would “deliver the public transit system the people of this Commonwealth deserve.” Those of us who live in Central Massachusetts welcomed the commitment, and were excited to work with your administration to address an issue that drives inequality in our state. While most of the media attention is focused on the challenges faced by the MBTA, Worcester County is also plagued by the lack of foresight in transportation planning. Thanks to the previous administration, we have seen great progress with the Worcester-Framingham Commuter Rail line. Yet there is still much more to be done to increase train frequency and improve schedule timing. The Pike is in such a state of disarray that a Central Massachusetts resident might be more inclined to take a job in Rhode Island due to the shorter commute time and absence of tolls.
These previously mentioned issues are long-term strategic planning challenges that will take years to address. However, by making a commitment to addressing regional inequity you will be able to gain the expertise and public support to invest in our future. You can begin this commitment to regional equity today by reversing your position on funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTA’s).
The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) does over 3 million trips per year and primarily services people who have no other means of transportation. The service reduction proposals being entertained are devastating to the communities of the 17th Worcester District. In addition to eliminating weekend service, there are proposals being floated to reduce or eliminate Route 33- one of only two bus routes that services Leicester. There are additional proposals to reduce the frequency of busses in Main South- a Worcester neighborhood where public transportation is vital to the economic success of the community.
Your administration’s decision to slash funding will hurt not only the people of Leicester and Worcester but also negatively affect the local businesses that drive our economy in the Commonwealth.
I have joined a coalition that is urging the House and Senate to restore the level of funding that the RTAs were promised- knowing that this is not for additional service but just to maintain the current level of service. Once this campaign proves itself successful, I hope you will do the right thing and accept the new funding recommendations. I recognize that in these times policy makers are forced on a daily basis to make difficult budgetary decisions. However, we are a Commonwealth and must recognize that public transit is not a privilege. In our region alone, your funding proposal puts 15 living wage jobs at risk. The current budget harms the livelihoods of seniors, working families, and the disability community here in Central Massachusetts. Without a doubt, taking away the means an individual has to achieve self-sufficiency goes against our Commonwealth’s values.
Actions speak louder than words. I hope you will keep your promise to “deliver the public transit system the people of this Commonwealth deserve,” by fully funding the RTA’s in FY19.