Protesters Rally in Somerville

Over 100 people gathered in front of Somerville High School to protest service cuts and fare increases proposed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Services before a public hearing with the MBTA scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

The proposed cuts come as the MBTA attempts to eliminate a projected deficit of $161 million for fiscal year 2013. Currently, the MBTA is considering two proposals, one of which would include the elimination of six bus lines in Somerville, including the 96 bus that stops at Tufts University and Davis Square on its way to Harvard Square. The MBTA has planned to host 20 public meetings in January, February, and March in order to discuss the proposed cuts.

Karen A. Narefsky ’11, a Somerville resident who attended the rally, said she thought the purpose of the rally was to bring the community together in the face of the proposed MBTA cuts.

“Officials at the MBTA know already that people are angry,” Narefsky said. “What was really powerful was having people speak from a lot of different groups about how this affects them and how this affects their lives—hopefully this can be a basis for organizing.”

Narefsky said that she and many other Somerville residents believe the MBTA plan to cut service in the area is misguided.

“It’s crazy to talk about cutting service in Somerville because Somerville is actually underserved—it’s a dense city and there’s just not enough buses or train services,” Narefsky said. “The government is taking the easy way out by forcing riders to pay off the debt rather than asking the state legislature and the banks that hold the loans to renegotiate.”

Jackson F. Cashion ’13 agreed with Narefsky’s assessment. Though he did not attend the rally in Somerville, he has been actively involved in protesting MBTA cuts in the past.

“The real solution to the MBTA budget lies with the legislature, not with cutting service that lots of people rely on every day,” Cashion said. “What the T should be doing is lobbying the legislature to fix some of the economic inefficiencies that have created the terrible financial scenario.”

Cashion also mentioned that he—and a “solid contingent” of protestors—believe that the cuts will unfairly target socially disadvantaged citizens.

“Any fare increase is going to have a negative effect on people who are struggling to pay for public transportation as it is, especially in poor communities,” he said. “In Somerville, for some people, public transportation may not be affordable anymore.”

The public hearing for Cambridge will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Cambridge City Hall.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at kflynn@college.harvard.edu.

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