The latest theater in the war against MBTA fare hikes and service cuts opened with a bang this week, as activists stormed every corner of the subway map. Occupy Somerville forces rallied in Davis Square. Their Jamaica Plain counterparts gathered at Forest Hills. Leading the pack, a group of determined teens with the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition joined hundreds from the T Riders Union and other activist outfits for a mass rally on Copley Square outside the Boston Public Library, where the MBTA planned a bombshell public meeting for 6 pm this past Monday.
More than two months into the battle, groups like On the Move and Transportation for Massachusetts were steaming, and carried out an emotional hour-long chorus of hoots and hollers. As the hearing time approached, delegates from more than 50 community groups filed into the BPL, where they quickly jammed the basement auditorium and an adjoining spillover room. More than 100 people were turned away due to space constraints.
Inside, the crowd screamed loudly as Mark Boyle, assistant general manager for development at the MBTA, announced the proposed cuts. To claims that 90 percent of riders wouldn't be affected, people called Boyle a "liar." When he laid out a plan to make the Ride more expensive, MBTA officials were accused of "attacking disabled riders." Plans to scale back service on the Mattapan extension of the Red Line (and bus routes everywhere) were met with repeated allegations of institutional racism.
Mayor Tom Menino fared somewhat better. After scolding outspoken protesters, he took the podium to express many of the same concerns coming from the gallery before officials opened the floor for public testimony. In their turn, some people reminded T honchos that this mess is the result of their six-figure salaries and hiring binges. Others simply pleaded for mercy, telling how service cuts will leave them paralyzed.
Wild as it was, Monday's showdown was likely small potatoes compared to what's coming. Transportation is an ideal rallying point between progressive factions, as everyone from seniors and Occupiers to teens and disabled-rights crusaders are turning out in increasingly large numbers. Between now and April 4, when MBTA board members vote on the proposed changes, there will be more than a dozen marches and rallies. In the words of one heckler: "We want a discussion. So far you've just rammed this down our throats."
: This Just In
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