MBTA Board meeting disrupted by protesters
The MBTA’s finance committee meeting was ended prematurely yesterday when a group of irate protesters wearing underwear outside of their clothes took matters into their own hands.
Members from transportation advocacy group the T Riders Union (TRU) hijacked the hearing, standing up shortly after its start and noisily lambasting board members, urging them to consider alternate revenue options to fund the T’s lingering $161 million debt.
The group, dressed as “The Fast Five” superheroes in masks, capes and color-coordinated undergarments, interrupted the committee with their angry shouts and demands. Committee members quickly abandoned the room.
Yesterday’s finance meeting was the last public meeting of the committee before the full MBTA board is expected to vote on proposals submitted by Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials in April.
Those proposals have called for the first T fare increase in years as well as drastic service cuts.
The meeting schedule called for continued discussions on the T’s proposals to close the budget gap.
“[The protesters'] actions have made it very difficult for the finance committee to give this any consideration,” said committee chairman Ferdinand Alvaro after leaving. “It was my plan to give management some thoughts and ideas going forward. … [These] actions have disrupted the process, no doubt.”
After the MBTA?committee had departed, members of TRU took over the board meeting room, sitting in officials’ seats and holding their own unofficial hearing and protest rally.
David Jenkins, a member of TRU, said the board has had plenty of time to consider alternative proposals.
“They are acting like their hands are tied,” he said. “They have had months of public opportunities to take [increases and cuts] off the table.”
Say what you want?
While T board member Ferdinand Alvaro is a “big believer in the First Amendment” and allowed angry T riders to voice their opinions at yesterday’s meeting, not all in the Bay State welcome free speech so well.
A report released by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education of the 12 worst colleges for “Free Speech” put Harvard, Tufts and Brandeis on the list.
MBTA officials said they would make the final proposals public sometime this week.
The T’s board of directors is expected to vote on the recommendations in the coming weeks.
Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear