A group of seniors and disabled people in wheelchairs blocked traffic along Beacon Street for about 30 minutes Monday afternoon during a protest over fare hikes for MBTA’s The Ride service.
Four people were handcuffed and taken away by police, while those in wheelchairs were moved off the street in front of the State House by officers.
The group from the Massachusetts Senior Action Council said they were being denied access to transportation because of last year’s fare hikes on door-to-door service The Ride. The fare increase last year doubled the cost to $4 for a one-way trip to many locations.
Kiki Chaiton, 82, of Lynn, was one of the protesters. She said before the fare hike went into effect she took Ride to volunteer at a Swampscott nursing home. Now she can’t afford to do that. But the cost for other people worries her more.
“People on dialysis, they sometimes need to go to the doctors three or four times a week,” she said. “This was a great thing for them. It kept people alive.”
The group chanted in front of the State House before about 10 of them sat in wheelchairs or metal folding chairs in the middle of Beacon Street. A Boston police captain warned each of them individually that after a certain amount of time a police wagon would show up and they would be arrested. When the wagon showed up, the captain told each of them again that if they didn’t move to the sidewalk they would be arrested. Four people were taken away by police and those in wheelchairs were moved to the sidewalk.
Members of the organization cheered when some of the protesters were led away by police.
“They left thousands of people unable to access doctors or the community,” Carolyn Villers, the council’s executive director, said of the lawmakers and transit officials who went forward with last year’s fare hikes.
Alfredo Viera, 35, of Boston, was stuck in a van just in front of the protest that took place at about 12:30 p.m. He was on his way to Logan Airport for a 2 p.m. flight.
He said he was sympathetic to the cause of the protesters, but shouldn’t protest in the street.
“They’ve got to go,” he said. “They can’t do this on a public way like this.”
The MBTA has said the cost of operating The Ride is an extreme drain on funds and resources, especially as the population ages. The service costs the T about $122 million annually and is increasing at about 16 percent each year, T officials have said.