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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students weary about fallout from transit cuts

Published: February 17, 2012
Section: News

In preparation for a March 1 Waltham hearing on MBTA cuts, Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12 and Vice President Gloria Park ’13 organized a Town Hall Forum on Monday night for members of the Brandeis community to voice their concerns and hear the university’s response to the recent MBTA plans.

Brandeis University’s Senior Vice President of Communications and External Affairs Andrew Gully spoke on behalf of the administration. “There is a temptation to say that we want action now,” he said, “but there is a long period of comment. This issue is a political process just as much as a budget process.”

While a handful of students attended the Town Hall meeting, others rallied at Occupy the MBTA, an extension of the overall Occupy movement. On Monday evening, protesters organized by the T-Riders Union took to the rail lines as a means of retaliating against proposed service reductions and fare increases.

“The atmosphere in the demo was incredible. Many familiar faces from the Occupy Boston community, standing strong with the T workers union,” Noam Lekach, organizer of the Brandeis protest, said.

According to Brandeis Sustainability Coordinator Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, Brandeis makes full use of current MBTA offerings.

“Twenty-five percent of all the trips applicable commuters make that we reported to DEP were in public transit. Applicable commuters are those who work and/or study more than 17 hours per week; don’t use their car for work; and don’t live on campus. When just employees are taken out, it’s about 13 percent of employees who take public transportation and 18 percent of students for commuting purposes.”

Nearly 55 commuter passes have been obtained by Brandeis employees, as reported by Human Resources.

Even more concerning are the greater disparate effects of fare increases and service cuts on college students, not only at Brandeis, but across the Boston-Metropolitan area. At Monday night’s meeting, a small group of students addressed the particular drawbacks to these changes.

“Cutting service and raising fares has a disproportionate effect on college students; we cannot easily switch to vehicles as a mode of transportation or pay pricey fares,” said one undergraduate.

Accessibility via the Fitchburg Commuter Line to Boston, which is already limited by infrequent service during off-peak hours and weekends, will become much less efficient in getting Brandeis students to their internships, immersion opportunities, and travel hubs like South Station and Logan International.

Locals are similarly weary. According to an article on Waltham Patch, home values could fall with service cuts.

When asked what would be done for Brandeis transportation into Boston in the light of the MBTA decision, Gully stated: “As we wait to see what the MBTA is going to do, it’s premature to say how we will respond.”

Rosen also stated that e-mail surveys will be sent out in order to obtain statistics on the percentage of affected students. Findings of the survey will be presented at the March 1 hearing in Waltham.