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MASSPIRG and Over 20 Organizations Send Letter to Governor Baker in Support of Investment in Regional Transit
RE: Support for Regional Transit Authority (RTA) funding included in legislative budget - Line Item 1595-6370 - $88 million
Dear Governor Baker,
The legislature has passed a fiscal year 2019 budget that recognizes the importance of the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to the Commonwealth. The undersigned 24 organizations request that you make it a high priority to maintain and improve service on our RTAs and sign the budget without reducing the funding for RTAs. These organizations represent diverse communities throughout the Commonwealth, and all recognize the importance of the RTAs to the quality of life of Massachusetts residents.
The RTAs provide critical public transportation services throughout the Commonwealth, providing over 32 million rides. They are a lifeline for people in places like Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, and New Bedford. One in seven Massachusetts households do not own a car, and that number is growing. Public transportation is essential for those residents, as well as others who do not want to or cannot drive. Public transportation also promotes a strong economy, a cleaner environment, and healthier communities.
The budget on your desk increases total funding for the RTAs to $88 million for FY19, a $7.6 million increase from FY18. Of that $88 million, $82 million is base funding, and an additional $6 million is to be distributed by MassDOT based on agreements with RTAs and recommendations of the newly created Task Force on RTA Performance and Funding. Although this funding scheme likely will not prevent all of the currently proposed service cuts, it would still be a great step towards improving and expanding our regional transit system.
Funding the RTAs at $88 million is intended to keep up with inflation due to increases in wages and operating costs since the annual funding level of $80 million was made possible through the 2013 Transportation Finance Act. For several years now, there has been no increase in state support. We should not punish riders and communities by keeping funding levels flat at a time of rising costs.
We support your push for more accountability, reform, and innovation in transportation. We believe that RTAs, the communities they serve, and the Commonwealth must be partners in a durable solution. We fully support the provision in the budget creating an RTA Task Force, and look forward to working with the Task Force in the coming months.
The goal is not to preserve the status quo, but to best serve the public by providing good transit options. Not providing appropriate funding for RTA service will have devastating consequences for residents who use and rely on buses every day.
We strongly urge you to sign the budget without reducing the funding level for RTAs below the total of $88 million and help put us on a path towards a better transportation future for all of Massachusetts.
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