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ZERO FARE Demonstration Speech
Good Afternoon. My name is Nelly Medina. I am the Central Mass regional organizer for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice and a Member of Neighbor 2 Neighbor. I am also a Mom and student who rode the bus to and from college with my young son. Why are we here today? We are here today because the WTRA is not in communion with those of us who rely on the service that they provide.
Since before the pandemic, local organizers have advocated for better access and ZERO Fare rides for the cities residents. Our city buses must be more affordable. Public transportation is too expensive for the cities low-income and student population.
The WRTA has participated in the stigmatization of its riders so that they more easily exploit us. However, all of us know there are several reasons that people choose local public transportation.
Among them are-
Decreased environmental impact (lessening one’s carbon footprint).
Increased well-being and reduced stress from driving.
A disability that prevents mobility.
Time gained to work, read or relax.
Decreased wear and tear on personal vehicles.
Health benefits from walking to and from public transit stops or stations.
Increased feeling of community from interacting with others on your transit route.
I want to share my story. A parent like me who made 1200 dollars a year, taking two busses to and from school or work at 2.50 cents per ride, 10 dollars a day, 50 dollars a week, 200 dollars a month, I spent 2, 400 a year the equivalent of 20 percent of my income on riding the WRTA. Another 30 percent of my income is paying rent. A person living below poverty in Worcester is spending more than half of their income on shelter and public transportation, which is unacceptable. The WRTA is expensive for those of us who depend on taking buses every day.
The WRTA received 45 million dollars through the COVID-19 Cares act and is currently holding on to 40 million dollars. The WRTA is knowingly exploiting riders who were struggling to pay for bus rides before the pandemic. For individuals recovering from job loss, poverty, the homeless, or the disabled, accessible free and reliable transportation can be a lifeline for them.
WRTA, Do the right thing, keep fares accessible by using the covid-19 relief funds for Zero Fare service, and stop the stigmatization and purposeful exploitation of those who depend on the city buses. The WRTA is hoarding funds intended for riders and bus drivers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; I repeat, Funds for riders and bus drivers. Not to make the WRTA rich.
Let us give a round of applause to the organizers of this rally and everyone here in solidarity with WRTA bus riders and drivers.
What do we want? Zero Fare!
When do we want it? Now!