Demands Funds Be Used to Preserve Rides for Seniors, Disabled and Weekend Commuters

NEEDHAM – Wednesday, March 15, 2017 – After Governor Charlie Baker outlined plans for cutting transportation services for seniors, disabled residents and weekend commuters, Democrat for Governor Jay Gonzalez today called on Governor Baker to rescind special payments to the commuter rail operator rather than balance the budget on the backs of vulnerable residents.

In July of 2016, Governor Baker agreed to give $66 million in special payments to Keolis, the independent operator of the commuter rail. Governor Baker also quietly forgave nearly $1 million in penalties for poor performance by Keolis without publicly disclosing the decision. Meanwhile, Governor Baker has hiked fares on MBTA riders, outsourced jobs, cut service and revealed plans to expand service to Gillette Stadium.  Now, he is proposing further service cuts, including the elimination of all weekend commuter rail service and rides for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities.

“While choosing to give tens of millions of dollars more to the private commuter rail operator, Governor Baker has been outsourcing jobs, jacking up fares and cutting services for our families,” Gonzalez said. “Now he’s proposing to eliminate weekend commuter rail service and rides for seniors and disabled. It’s not ok. These decisions significantly disrupt the lives of working people.

“The thousands of people who rely on the commuter rail service to get to work and live their lives shouldn’t have to pay for Governor Baker’s extra payments to Keolis. Governor Baker should hold Keolis accountable for the original commitments it made and preserve vital services for riders by rescinding the extra payments he agreed to pay. It’s time to have an honest conversation about the investments required to improve transportation, create jobs, and grow our economy.”

A recent US News and World ranked Massachusetts 45th in the nation in the quality of our transportation network and 47th in terms of commute times. More service cuts will only compound this problem.