The Massachusetts congressional delegation on Wednesday called on MBTA officials to justify service cuts amid increased federal transit funding, saying the reductions disproportionately affect essential workers from low-income communities.
In a letter, the lawmakers expressed frustration that MBTA officials have yet to respond to a previous correspondence the delegation sent in December that voiced concerns about service cuts.
Since then, Congress has secured more than $250 million for the MBTA, and the American Rescue Plan is expected to add an estimated $1 billion to the state’s transit funding, the letter said.
“We urge you to provide evidence that justifies decreased service despite this robust federal relief, as we previously requested, or immediately reverse the recent service cuts, which disproportionately harm essential workers and low-income communities who rely on the MBTA for commutes and access to critical services,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which was addressed to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.
The letter was signed by the entire delegation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, as well as Representatives Katherine M. Clark, Richard Neal, James McGovern, Stephen Lynch, William Keating, Seth Moulton, Lori Trahan, Ayanna Pressley, and Jake Auchincloss.
The legislators asked Poftak for reassurance that the anticipated federal assistance would be used to “completely restore any and all service cuts as soon as possible.”
“We consider mass transit to be a public good, a vital tool for combating climate change, and an integral part of our post-COVID recovery,” the letter said. “As such, we again request that the MBTA provide clear evidence demonstrating the continued need for this degree of service reduction in light of the significant federal assistance the Authority has received.”
On Tuesday, Lynch, one of the signers, denounced the MBTA for instituting a new round of service cuts despite relief funding.
“We’re providing taxpayer money to the MBTA to provide services to the taxpayer. So we are in total opposition to the reduction in services, to the laying off of employees, of furloughing employees,” Lynch said at a news conference with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh about the recovery legislation. “That doesn’t work for us.”
With ridership remaining low because of the pandemic, MBTA officials on Sunday reduced service on the Orange, Green, and Red lines by about 20 percent and cut trips on the Blue Line by 5 percent.
A number of bus routes were also scaled back or eliminated, although some of the busiest lines have more service now than they did a year ago. Commuters on the northern end of the Orange Line will also have to take shuttle buses for the next three weeks due to a derailment and repairs.
Matt Berg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.