People Prefer More State Spending on MBTA Over Service Cuts, Poll Shows

The majority of people in Massachusetts don't believe the MBTA will restore service to prior levels if cuts are made, according to a new poll

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People prefer that Massachusetts spend more money to close the MBTA budget gap rather than cut services, according to the results of a recent poll.

MassINC Polling Group, a nonpartisan public opinion research firm, released the results of their latest poll Thursday morning. Of the 1,340 Massachusetts residents who were polled, more than half -- 54% -- said they don't believe the MBTA will restore service to prior levels if the cuts are made.

About 64% of people who took the poll said they oppose the system-wide service cuts proposed by the MBTA, while 66% said they would rather have state lawmakers give the transit agency more funding to close its budget gap.

While the poll didn't address where the state funding would come from to remedy the MBTA's budget deficit, a spokesperson from Gov. Charlie Baker's office indicated it would require a tax hike.

“This poll fails to measure public support for the question that is actually at hand — should taxes be increased in order to operate a transit system that has seen its ridership decrease by 75%,” spokesman Terry MacCormack said.

Details of deep proposed MBTA service cuts were released last month as the T and its GM Steve Poftak continue to grapple with a decrease in ridership and a corresponding decline in revenue.

Facing a nearly $580 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2022, the proposal include halting ferry services, eliminating weekend Commuter Rail service and slashing 25 bus routes. The reductions won't go into effect immediately, but some of them will take place in early 2021.

The agency said its service changes would preserve base-level service, which includes about 80 essential bus routes, The Ride, the whole of the rapid transit system including the subway and the Fairmont Commuter Rail line.  

"The vast majority of MBTA service will continue, the proposed service changes are not permanent, and the MBTA will periodically realign service as feasible to match current and future ridership patterns when durable revenue is available for pay for such service," General Manager Steve Poftak said.

Some MBTA employees and commuters were scheduled to hold a rolling rally Thursday outside the agency's Boston headquarters to speak out against proposed service cuts.

A group of MBTA employees and commuters held a rally last month against the proposed cuts.

MassINC pointed to previous MPG polls that have found most people prefer to work from home, at least a few days a week, as the state reopens. Meanwhile, 80% of riders now say they plan to take transit at least a few times a week.

A series of virtual public meetings are underway to get feedback on the plans. A final vote by the MBTA's Fiscal Management and Control Board is expected to take place Dec. 7.

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