In the news

MASSPIRG
|
Lynn Daily Item
By
Chris Stevens

The number of speakers outnumbered the audience by one, but the public interest advocate group MASSPIRG still drove home the need for greater access to public transportation during a press conference Thursday at the Broad Street commuter rail station.

MASSPIRG Campus Organizer Sean McGrath released a report Thursday that called on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to provide more reliable and accessible public transportation for two specific groups, senior citizens and college students.

“College students and senior citizens account for more than one out of every five residents,” McGrath said.

He called the two groups unlikely cohorts.

According to the report, the number of seniors and college students are increasing.

“Now is the time to talk about increasing investments in public transportation,” McGrath said.

McGrath said public transportation often represents a lifeline for both seniors and college students, allowing them access to work, school, health-care agencies and social activities.

However, he continued, the MBTA has been chronically underfunded for 60 years, which has led to among other things, an aging infrastructure that is now too expensive to fix.

North Shore Community College students Donovyn Pickler and Kaitlyn Heathman both rely on public transportation to get them from their homes in Saugus to school and to work, but said the MBTA often lets them down.

“Unfortunately I often look for rides because public transportation is inconvenient and unreliable,” she said.

What is typically a 10-minute drive, Heathman said, takes one hour and two buses to complete with public transportation. And, she added, since the buses run less frequently at night, it often includes a 45-minute walk home or an hour wait for a transfer.

Pickler had a similar story. He said he has had to turn down jobs because the buses from Boston to Saugus don’t run late enough. One evening, when the job was too good to pass up, Pickler said he spent five hours sitting in Haymarket Square waiting for a bus.

Hilary Hebert said she ended up moving into a dorm at Salem State University because public transportation from Beverly was too unreliable to count on.

Wil Cespedes from Massachusetts Senior Action Council said it irritated him that the MBTA received subsidies yet continued to hike prices, making it nearly cost prohibitive for the people who need it most. However, he said he also believed that if everyone worked together, the issues could be resolved.

MBTA Manager Jose Rodriguez said he took the report and the students’ concerns seriously.

“I will bring this back and we’ll have a discussion on what happened here,” he said, referring to the student statements.

Representatives from Greater Lynn Senior Services, including Executive Director and Councilor at large Paul Crowley, were also on hand for the event.

“It’s very important to us,” Crowley said. “We’re always interested in these types of developments and to have a chance to share our ideas as well.”