March 12, 2018

Public bus funding could spiral downward, supporters say

File photo
Public bus funding, including for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, could soon be at stake.

Supporters of public bus transit in the Worcester area are warning of "death spiral" in services and say underfunding of regional transit authorities also looms as a threat in the Springfield, Merrimack Valley and other areas.

Justin Lawson, a Worcester Regional Transit Authority bus driver, told the News Service Sunday that grassroots support for regional transit services is growing and he's received positive feedback from lawmakers, who hold most of the control over the state budget, after discussing his concerns

A State House rally in April is in the works, Lawson said, and he has circulated word about a March 20 rally at Worcester City Hall that is expected to attract Senate President Harriette Chandler of Worcester, candidate for governor Setti Warren, and Worcester Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray, as well as more than a half dozen other state lawmakers and Worcester City Councilwoman Sarai Rivera.

According to ATU Local 22, the funding level proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker in his fiscal 2019 budget would cause a "crippling loss to public transit across the state." The House and Senate, which touted RTA investments in a 2013 law, plan to redraft Baker's budget and pass their own bills in April and May.

Low-wage workers in areas outside eastern Massachusetts count on reliable bus service to make it to their jobs, Lawton said. "It's really about everbody," he said. "Everybody should have access to the bus."


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