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Crowd blasts T proposals at Cambridge City Hall

Posted by Brock Parker  March 1, 2012 07:43 AM

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Rachel Tanenhaus with her guide dog spoke against proposed MBTA fare hikes and service cuts in Cambridge City Hall last night. Photo by Brock Parker.

Folding chairs and television monitors were set up all over Cambridge City Hall last night in an effort to accommodate well over 250 people attending a hearing about proposed MBTA fare hikes and service cuts.

Scores of people from the crowd, which quickly reached capacity of the City Council chambers, spoke in vehement opposition to fare hikes and service cuts being proposed by the T in an effort to help offset a $161 million deficit.

The hearing was the latest in a series held by the MBTA to gather feedback about the proposals.

Among the service cuts being considered for Cambridge are cuts to 10 bus routes that city officials have estimated would eliminate service for more than 10,000 local riders.

Maryann Cappello, the athletic director for Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, said more than 700 student athletes depend on public transit to get to practices and games in various parts of the city during the school year, and urged the MBTA not to cut bus services for those students.

“If the MBTA decides to cut out bus routes that take students to and from practices, this would have a major impact on the Cambridge Rindge & Latin program throughout the year,” Cappello said.

Some of the sharpest criticism of the MBTA proposals in Cambridge Wednesday night came from the disabled, who railed against fare increases including those proposed for The Ride, which provides door-to-door service for disabled customers.

Standing at the microphone with her guide dog at her side Wednesday night, Cambridge resident Rachel Tanenhaus said she depends on the T to get to work in downtown Boston everyday.

Tanenhaus said the MBTA needs to make public transit more accessible and needs to improve service on The Ride.

“You want to save money, make the T rideable,” Tanenhaus said. “Make it so it doesn’t take a lawsuit to make minimal access happen on the MBTA.”

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With the City Council Chambers full, more than 100 people had to sit in folding chairs set up at various spots throughout City Hall to watch the hearing on television sets. Photo by Brock Parker.

Opposition to the MBTA proposals was also echoed by city officials and state legislators Wednesday.

Speaking for several state legislators at the hearing, State Rep. Alice Wolf, D-Cambridge, said the Cambridge delegation knows that the fare increases and service cuts being considered are “very important to people’s pocketbooks.”

“We will be working with the T to make sure some of these nightmare scenarios will not take place,” Wolf said.

Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis, who attended the hearing Wednesday, said no decisions have been made about the proposed fare increases or service cuts. Davis said the MBTA is aware that the proposals being considered will affect people, and he encouraged T riders to voice their concerns.

“We are listening,” he said.

The MBTA is expected to make a decision on the fare increases and proposed service cuts in April.

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