Employment and appointments suffer
By Javier Panzar | BOSTON GLOBE | JULY 10, 2013
Sixty-three-year-old Terrie Cherry, a primary care attendant, crisscrosses Worcester up to seven times a day on the local buses to reach her patients.
She rides Route 6 in the morning, and if the bus is late, as it was twice last week, so are the elderly and patients she helps care for when she prepares them for doctor’s appointments.
“I could walk it if it wasn’t all hills, and taking a cab means I’d have to give up at least one hour’s pay,” she said. “It is becoming a big problem.”
Cherry says her clients can adjust to her transit issues, but attendants can lose clients because of late buses.
A report published Tuesday by The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and by Neighbor to Neighbor, a community organization, shows that low-income Latino residents suffer from inadequate public transportation options that often affect their ability to hold jobs, keep doctor’s appointments, and provide for their families.
The report — which focuses on Latino communities in East Boston, Lynn, Springfield, and Worcester — found that nearly 40 percent of respondents said they sacrifice a basic necessity to afford transportation.
The report was funded by the Barr Foundation.
Though the report focused on Latino communities, the findings probably apply to other parts of the state, said Stephanie Pollack, associate director of The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.
“The families we talked to are paying a very heavy toll in money, in time, in stress, and in not being able to get to the things they need to improve their lives,” Pollack said Tuesday after a press conference to announce the report. “We can fix that by spending money on better bus service.”
The report recommends additional funding for regional transit authorities to expand service hours, increase bus frequency, and add new routes in neighborhoods across the state.
The report also found that residents from communities with better transit access had higher employment rates. Eighty-two percent of those polled from East Boston, which has the best transit access of the towns that were studied, reported having a job. Only 28 percent of respondents from Springfield, which scored last in transit access, reported being employed.
The report was issued as legislative leaders and Governor Deval Patrick continue to spar over funding for the state’s beleaguered transportation system.
Patrick rejected the Legislature’s transportation finance bill that would raise up to $805 million in new annual revenue for transportation and countered with a proposal that could further increase the gas tax in 2017 if certain Massachusetts Turnpike tolls expire.
The Legislature will take up Patrick’s plan next week.
As the transportation budget takes shape, Pollack said state leaders need to consider not just new infrastructure projects, but also increased bus service on existing lines.
“There are a lot of requirements for new plans in the bill, and we want to make sure as those plans are made they take into account unmet needs,” she said.
Senator Thomas M. McGee, cochairman of the Joint Transportation Committee, said that although the specific recommendations made in the report are not funded in the current transportation funding legislation, the report offers valuable information for state leaders to consider down the road.
“Our future depends on these types of investments making access to affordable transportation available for every resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, whether they live in an urban area, a suburban area, or a rural area,” McGee said.
“They all are looking for that access.”