There are a number of heavy issues on the agenda for the State Legislature right now, but House Speaker Bob DeLeo said this week that none of those issues seem to be as immediate and as important as the proposed rate hikes and service cuts by the MBTA.
DeLeo announced this week that, among several things, he has convinced the T to hold a meeting in Winthrop on Monday, Feb. 27th, at 6 p.m. in the Winthrop Senior Center.
“This issue has just continued on and on and on for all the members of the House,” said DeLeo in a phone interview with the Sun Transcript. “This has become a major issue and I have to say now, even with a discussion going on about the budget and healthcare, this issue has become the top priority and bypassing everything else in importance due to the impact it could have on our residents.”
DeLeo said he has met with top officials in the state’s Department of Transportation and made a compelling case for the bus service in Winthrop – which is slated to be cut under one of two proposed scenarios.
“I’ve met with the Secretary of Transportation and he promised to maintain an ongoing conversation,” said DeLeo. “Hopefully, we can stave off these cuts for Winthrop. There’s been no promises made, but we will have a dialogue…I made my case to him of how difficult that cut would be for our residents and the necessity of the service to Winthrop.”
One early fruit from that dialogue has been the scheduling of a public meeting in Winthrop this month. At a meeting in Chelsea last month, several Winthrop residents and business owners showed up and announced their disappointment at the plan to cut Winthrop’s private-carrier bus routes.
DeLeo said he hopes that everyone with concerns will show up at the meeting to give the T a strong idea of how the bus service here is critical.
“I’m looking forward to having all the people who called me come out to the meeting,” said DeLeo. “I want the MBTA to hear these stories firsthand. It’s always more compelling to hear these stories directly from real people about how these kinds of cuts would affect their lives. I always felt that to be the case when I worked on the state budget as chair of Ways and Means.”
The MBTA is holding public meetings all over its service area right now, in anticipation of a budget that has to be filed in April. That budget is currently in deficit of $163 million and the T also faces a debt load of $5 billion. In response to those financial problems, the T released two cost-cutting scenarios last month, and they have caused quite a stir all over MBTA service areas.