Louise Baxter: T Riders Union Member

March 5, 2015

Louise Baxter, T Riders Union Member

I’m with the T Riders Union (TRU), I go to some of the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) board meetings, and I advocate and lobby for public transit. I live in South Boston now, but if you go way, way back I came from New Hampshire in ’63 because there was no public transportation. I wanted to work and go to school and you couldn’t do that without a car. That’s why I came to Boston.

After the snowstorm, it was really wicked. I didn’t go out at night because you couldn’t depend on the buses and the walking is terrible. I haven’t been going down to the L Street Bathhouse to take my swim in the ocean because I didn’t want to carry my heavy bag over the ice. I used to go to Art Is Life at Haley House and I haven’t been going there because the buses aren’t running that often at night. It’s much more difficult walking and the buses aren’t always reliable even in normal times. After the storms, you didn’t know if they were running or not. I didn’t go too many places. I didn’t want to go shopping. Food got low. I wasn’t totally stranded because I could walk to Tedeschi’s, just a couple blocks away. It took me two hours to get to ACE once and it’s only two and a half miles.

People talked about how long they had to wait, sometimes it took them so long they didn’t get there. I didn’t go if I was worried about getting home.

I lived in New Hampshire. We had no public transportation. My mother had trouble getting a good job because we had limitations with how far we could go: it had to be walkable. I came down to Boston because I wanted to advance myself and here public transportation enabled me to work and go to school. I made more money as a nurse’s aid down here than my mother did as a licensed practical nurse in New Hampshire because she couldn’t get the hours—she didn’t have a car and couldn’t get the jobs. The T helped me advance myself, get through school, and when I finally paid off the college loans, I figured: I’ve gotten along without a car for so long, why get one now? Now I’m getting a little older and have a little trouble walking so the T is very important for me to get out and do things.

I think everything is even worse for youth now-a-days. Youth today pay more for transportation and it’s taking away opportunity for the upcoming generation. The T is just one more expense and if it gets worse, it will make it harder for them to get from school to work in time, or getting kids to daycare. Also, because of gentrification, people are being shoved further and further from their jobs. You can’t walk from Lowell or Chelsea to here. I would like to see people have the same opportunity I had when I was younger. But that's before they ruined the neighborhoods. Because we used to be able to get most of our shopping done without leaving South Boston so you wouldn't feel like you needed a car. A lot of neighborhoods were like that, like Central Square. But they've taken it away and now there are just restaurants and dog spas.

I was always concerned about good public transportation. And this makes me even more afraid that things are going to get worse if we don’t do something. Because a lot of this problem is from lack of investment in the T. What they’re doing now is disinvesting in public transportation and that would really hurt chances for people to advance themselves. Walking takes a lot longer and if you have to work and go to school or pick up your kids at daycare… They don’t want to raise any new revenue—they want to do it on what we have now. If they divest, it will be transportation for the elite and not the rest.

We need to advocate for more new investment and revenue, including taxes. I don’t have kids in school, but I’m still paying for the schools, which I think I should. We also want to deal with the equity issue. We want to make sure the solutions don’t just help those with higher incomes. We want to make sure there are no adverse effects on low-income communities and communities of color. We all share an infrastructure: public transit, public good.