Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George Spar Over MBTA Plans at Mayoral Debate

A central piece of Michelle Wu's campaign for Boston mayor has been her intent to make the MBTA free, something her opponent, Annissa Essaibi George, has criticized

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Transportation was one of the first topics addressed in Tuesday's debate between Boston's mayoral candidates.

Michelle Wu has called for the MBTA to be free — a concept that has been heavily criticized by Annissa Essaibi George.

"For us to be a world class city, we need transportation that works for everyone," Wu said Tuesday.

Wu said allies of Essaibi George have used "scare tactics to make people afraid of my plans for fair, free public transit."

Essaibi George said if Massachusetts lawmakers don't work with the city, taxpayers will have to foot the bill, saying the operating cost of the MBTA is $2.3 billion a year.

"Our public transit system needs deeper investment. When we make the T free — certainly we should look at several bus lines that connect some of our city's residents to the core, to opportunity — but to make the MBTA free, who is going to pay for that?" she asked. "It is unfair to ask the people of Boston to pay that price tag."

"We're already paying the price tag for transportation that doesn't work, that leaves people stranded," Wu replied.

Two weeks ahead of election day in Boston, fireworks were on display at a debate between Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George.

Wu went on to say she met a student who lives in Mattapan and says the 28 bus being free has changed his life.

"Not having to think about how to have $2 on hand to get to class on time," she said. "I'm not running for mayor to say what we can't do, I'm not going to underestimate the city of Boston. I'm fighting for what we need and deserve. We've already seen these results, and I'm going to keep doing that so that we can make sure everybody has access to all of the opportunities in Boston."

A day before the debate, Wu spoke out against an attack ad from the "Bostonians for Real Progress" PAC that claimed she had proposed "defunding" the MBTA — a notion that made her laugh.

"I have called repeatedly and loudly for more investments," she said.

Essaibi George said she and her campaign had nothing to do with the ad, but said it speaks to some of her concerns, saying "there's very specific examples of Michelle looking to defund the city."

Sue O'Connell and Tim Caputo help break down the debate between Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George two weeks before Boston's mayoral election.
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