T official criticizes CommonWealth story

Says story was incorrect and inappropriate

THE VICE CHAIR of the MBTA’s oversight board tweeted on Thursday that she was “deeply disappointed” with the headline and narrative used in a CommonWealth story dealing with service cuts to address a budget shortfall that could be anywhere from $300 million to $600 million.

The headline on the story, which ran on Monday, said “T targets white, wealthier riders with service cuts,” and the piece went on to report that the transit authority planned to “retain or improve services that cater to low-income, minority riders who either don’t have cars or limited access to them. T officials say many of those riders have continued to ride the T during the pandemic and are more likely to return when the danger subsides. Under the T’s current plan, cuts would be focused on services with low ridership or those that cater to higher-income white riders, even if those services had high ridership prior to the pandemic.”

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the vice chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, tweeted that the tough financial position facing the T and other transit authorities around the country requires that tradeoffs be made and the priority in making those tradeoffs must be transit-critical populations. She said the T’s definition of transit-critical populations crosses racial and social-economic categories.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The definition has changed a bit over the last two weeks. In a September 14 presentation, T staff defined transit-critical populations as low income, people of color, and zero or low car households. On Monday, the definition was amended in the appendix of the presentation to add seniors and people with disabilities.

“Under this definition, there ARE white transit critical riders, and there ARE wealthy transit critical riders,” Tibbits-Nutt tweeted. “Furthermore – and this is especially upsetting – word choices like ‘targets’ and ‘caters’ are indisputably loaded and potentially coded. Characterizing tough service decisions as attacks on wealthy people or on white people is not only incorrect but inappropriate & particularly problematic in the context of an already geographically & ideologically segregated region. MBTA staff and our communities deserve better.”

The CommonWealth story reported on a T analysis that used ferry service between Boston and Hingham as an area where service could be reduced or eliminated. The analysis said “ferries may be considered high ridership propensity but low transit critical population,” meaning the boats have the potential to attract a large number of riders but not the type of riders the T is prioritizing. The analysis said ferry ridership is 4 percent low income, 2 percent minority, and 33 percent zero-to-one car households. The analysis said riders of the ferry could just as easily drive to a nearby commuter line.