(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Everyone in Boston complains about the T, but one local student decided to do something about it, and more than 100 others have taken an interest in his campaign.
When the struggling Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposed Tuesday that it may have to raise fares and reduce service, Emerson College freshman Zach Tucker took action. The Grafton native, 18, launched a grassroots effort called Students Against T Cuts to help educate and organize young people opposing the service reductions.
“We can’t keep complaining and just dealing with the status quo,” Tucker said in a phone interview Friday. “We have to go back to the source and have a serious talk with the legislature about why the T operates in such a restrictive and handcuffed financial form right now.”
As previously reported in the Boston Metro, Tucker began the effort online, with a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and a lively, informative discussion on Reddit. By 2 p.m. Friday, the Twitter page had 108 followers, the Facebook page had 104 likes, and there were 90 comments on Reddit.
“The social-media aspect of the movement has been very, very helpful in getting the word out,” Tucker said.
That debt is Tucker’s main concern — the MBTA owes $9 billion in debt and interest, part of it caused by the Big Dig and thrust onto the authority 12 years ago as part of a “forward funding” policy. Under forward funding, the MBTA must subsist on its own revenues and a percentage of the state sales tax rather than being reimbursed by the state for costs above its revenues, as it was before 2000.
Tucker ultimately wants to see part or all of the debt assumed by the state and forward funding repealed. In the short term, his goal is to educate and invigorate student opposition to the service cuts and engage with the MBTA and Beacon Hill to help develop solutions.
Part of the education process is telling people that as frustrating as the T can be, it’s not entirely the authority’s fault.
“It’s important to recognize that the T — for all their disabled trains and maintenance problems — that a lot of that is just because they just can’t pay for it without taking on more debt,” Tucker said.