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MBTA T cuts protested at State House

Diane Jimenez, Nancy Miller, and Sandra Levin applauded the testimony of Joanne Taylor at a public hearing in Boston on proposed MBTA fare increases and service cuts. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

A coalition of more than 20 community groups and organizations took to the steps of the State House yesterday to assail fare hikes and service cuts proposed by the MBTA, then joined more than 200 others at a rowdy public hearing.

“They’re only looking at the bottom line,’’ Pamela Bush, a community organizer for the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, told a group of about 70 protesters that also included members of Occupy Boston, Students Against T Cuts, the T Riders Union, and other groups.

The MBTA has released two proposals aimed at reducing a projected operating deficit of $161 million and $5.2 billion in debt, $3.6 billion of which was inherited from the state for projects that include the Big Dig.

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The proposed cuts include eliminating commuter rail service on weekends, reducing service on various lines and buses, and increasing the cost of fares and passes.

Critics say these proposals disproportionately raise fares for senior citizens and the disabled while cutting service to areas that have few alternatives or receive lower service already.

“What are they going to cut next year? There will be nothing left but the skeletal remains,’’ Bush said as protesters waved signs that read, “WTF: What’s the Fare?’’ or “See Something, Say Something’’ with a drawing of a large weight labeled “MBTA Debt’’ crushing a stick figure.

Bush and others called on the Legislature to come to the aid of the T.

“It’s time for us to make that noise and let them know that we’re not going to take it,’’ said Lee Matsueda of the T Riders Union, which plans to offer alternatives and meet with lawmakers across the state as the process continues.

“It was easy for [state lawmakers] to drop the Big Dig debt on the backs of the T and its riders, so they really need to consider how important of a service this is for our region and for the state as a whole,’’ Matsueda said before leading the group in a march to the hearing.

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State Representatives Denise Provost of Somerville and Alice Wolf of Cambridge, both Democrats, joined the group to show their support.

At the hearing, held in the Transportation Building, others expressed frustration with MBTA officials. As Joshua Robin, director of innovation and special projects for the agency, attempted to give a presentation summarizing the T’s financial situation, they shouted, “What about your salaries?’’ and “Then innovate!’’

One woman rose to criticize T officials for giving a presentation on information “we already know,’’ while limiting the time each member of the public can speak. The woman was escorted out by security, but officials cut short the presentation and began public comment as the audience cheered in her support.

The hearing was the latest of 22 planned hearings on the proposals.


Johanna Kaiser can be reached at johanna.yourtown@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter @JohannaKaiser.