By Alex Kerravala, Staff Writer
Thursday, April 5 at 4:00, MassPIRG held the MassPIRG Educational Fund Transportation Forum to discuss topics like carbon emissions from cars, public transportation in mass, why it is needed, and how it can be improved. The panel was led by Matt Casale, a MassPIRG representative, Francis Gay from GATRA, Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority, Administrator Erik Rousseau from SRTA, Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, and Erica Cruz of Bus Riders United.
The Panel began with Casale explaining what is wrong with public transportation in Massachusetts, while explaining how it could be improved. He mentioned several of the benefits of public transportation, such as the cost- benefit of a bus over driving long distances, and the reliance for those who may not have a personal vehicle.
However the only benefits are not just economic. The number one source of global warming emissions in Massachusetts comes from transportation, with the vast majority being personal vehicles. In Massachusetts, nearly seventy-percent of households have at least one personal vehicle.
Emissions can be drastically reduced with an increased usage of public transportation. The average family could reduce their CO2 emissions simply by switching to public transportation such as buses rather than driving themselves. Roughly five-thousand pounds of CO2 is saved each year by a single family taking transit to work. To put that in perspective, that’s more than winterizing one’s home, replacing old light bulbs and replacing old refrigerators combined. These things that are all common knowledge for reducing one’s carbon emissions are nowhere near as effective as simply taking the bus to work.
So why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, here Gay and Rousseau come in, explaining how significantly underfunded public transportation is across Massachusetts. There is approximately a one billion dollar funding gap per year for maintenance and repair of public transportation statewide. Not only is public transit not able to modernize and expand, it can’t even maintain what it currently has.
SRTA, for example, has to manage over Fall River and New Bedford with the same microscopic budget. With the two districts combined the SRTA sees a total ridership of about 2.7 million people and struggles to maintain. With the poverty of the two cities, the SRTA doesn’t have the budget to properly support even one of these cities, has to somehow manage both, and with the budget cuts, that makes it even harder. Now with budgets being cut, bus fares must go up.
Which brings us back to one of the most important points of Mass Public Transportation. Even if you throw the environmental concerns aside, the fact is this is a large community of livelihoods at stake. Not everyone can afford the cost and upkeep of a vehicle, and a bus is the only option. What happens if they then lose their job, and the bus routes are unable to transport them to a new job?
Want to do something about it? Well, the first big step you can take is to vote yes for MassPIRG, so they are able to keep up the good fight. MassPIRG needs the vote to stay funded to keep providing students around campus with greater opportunities. MassPIRG has been making excellent strides in providing affordable education, as well as renewable energy on campus, so keeping their work funded is vital.
To vote yes for MassPIRG, you will be emailed a link to access the ballot. Be sure to vote yes for MassPIRG before Friday, April 13.