T riders demand low fares, better travel

Seeking to improve public transportation in transit-dependent areas, Boston activists launched the T Riders Union — or TRU — last Friday and quickly claimed their first victory.

As a result of the triumph, bus riders can now transfer buses without paying the fare again. Riders have had to pay for a second fare when switching buses since 1961.

The transfer policy for buses will significantly help lower-income riders, especially since the fare has been increased in recent months.

“Now, instead of paying for four buses, I will only have to pay for two. That is cutting my fare in half. That’s wonderful,” said Ana Gomes, a TRU member.

The TRU has been in the works for almost a year. Fare increases announced at the end of the summer provided the opportunity for the TRU to come out publicly.

“The MBTA and the way they decided to do it [with fare increases] provided the Union with a perfect way to organize,” said Khalida Smalls, coordinator of the TRU.

The TRU has several other goals it will be focusing on now that transfer fares have been eliminated. Its overall objective is to improve the quality of MBTA service, especially in the area around Washington Street and Jamaica Plain.

“People have been complaining about it [MBTA service] for years with no response from the MBTA. It took us a while, but we realized to have political power we needed to form a voice for the riders,” Smalls said.

Additional goals of the TRU include improvement in daily bus service, more shelters from rain and snow, buses that run on schedule, inspectors at stops and more accessibility for handicapped passengers.

The TRU is also actively campaigning against the MBTA’s new Silver Line and for the reconstruction of the elevated Orange lines that were shut down in 1985 and `87. The MBTA closed sections of the Orange Line for temporary repairs and replaced them with bus routes that still exist today. The MBTA now wants to add the Silver Line as a replacement service for these crowded bus routes.

“The community is not happy” with the proposed Silver Line service, Smalls said. “A bus replacing a train is not equal replacement nor better replacement.”

“Now they want to replace that bus with another bus and call that replacement service. We will not stand for it,” said Bob Terrel, coordinator of the Washington Street Corridor Coalition.

TRU members insist they have only just begun to campaign for their cause.

“The struggle is just beginning [for the TRU],” Smalls said. “There is much more to be done to reverse years of transit disinvestments and racism.”

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