ACE Blog

Fighting fare increases for 2016

November 24, 2015

It's that time of year again - MassDOT is beginning to prepare the 2016-2017 MBTA budget. Until recently, this carried the threat of massive fare increases to deal with the T's ever-worsening fiscal crisis. In 2013, we won a provision in transportation legislation limiting fare hikes to no more than five percent every two years. By this measure, there would be a possible five percent increase in 2016.

However, some legislators, transit officials and Governor Baker's Fiscal and Management Control Board are now debating whether the law permits a 10 percent fare increase instead. As if this wasn't bad enough, some even want to raise prices on our paratransit system THE RIDE, bringing the cost of a one-way trip from $3 to $4.20, the highest fare allowable under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"As a T rider, I've experienced two fare hikes that have impacted my daily life," said Emmanuell de Barros, TRU intern, at a MassDOT board meeting in November. "Sometimes I would have to walk to school or work due to the cost, or because of inadequate service."

Unfortunately, service cuts - not improvements - are high on the Control Board's agenda. For example, bus trips used by some of the most vulnerable riders could be slashed, with the remainder being transferred to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft (with documented worker exploitation issues). This circumvents union jobs and moves us closer to privatization - even though corporations like Keolis have failed to provide better service at a lower cost to the state.

Despite the need to close the MBTA's $242 million budget gap and fund the more than $7.3 billion in backlogged repairs, Governor Baker is promoting the same "reform before revenue" fallacy that has precipitated the dire straights our transit system is in today. Our governor and legislators seem to prefer debating fare hikes in place of alloting the $261 million granted to the agency for the 2016-2017 fiscal year by the 2013 Transportation Investment Act.

"We need to be looking at real solutions instead of backtracking on the ones riders won in 2013 - and that includes capping fare hikes at five percent every two years and investing in the system," said Emmanuell.

Fare hikes and services cuts are not the answer to balancing the T's budget. No fare increase would be enough to cover the more than $9 billion in debt and bring the system into a state of good repair. We believe that a fare increase of any amount is too much when riders are already struggling to with the costs of getting to work, education, healthcare and other necessities. The T needs to be relieved of the Big Dig Debt and allocated a sustainable source of funding to provide the affordable, quality service that we need.

Join us to fight for real solutions for the T! Testify with TRU at MassDOT Fiscal and Management Control Board meetings on November 30 and December 9. We are expecting fare hike proposals to be unveiled by January 6, with a board vote in February. Learn more at our next TRU member meeting and sign up to join us for outreach! For more information, contact Caroline.  

Health centers supporting transit justice

November 24, 2015

Since the fall of 2014, ACE and our partners in the On The Move coalition have been working with community health centers in Boston to explore the connection between health and public transportation. As part of this process, health professionals recognized that better transit service would improve patient access to healthcare.

"The transit justice collaboration with ACE was transformative for our Health Center. Our partnership opened a new space to combine organizing, public health, racial justice language and values that was powerful and shared," said Abigail Ortiz, Director of Community Health Programs at the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center. "Focusing the goals of the project on the extensive transit organizing done by ACE and its members, rather than re-creating new ones, gave our health center clarity about how we can be most effective in placing our patients' realities at the center of our health equity policy work."

This year, 11 health centers in Dorchester, Roxbury, South Boston, the South End, the Fenway and Jamaica Plain collected more than 1,300 surveys from patients, the majority of whom are people of color.

The survey revealed that two-thirds of patients rely on public transportation to get to appointments, with 47 percent using the bus. Over 60 percent of respondents had missed appointments due to issues with public transportation. But this doesn't affect all people equally: Black patients are 1.25 times more likely than white patients - and Latino patients 1.3 times more likely - to miss or be late to an appointment due to transit reasons.

The surveys also show how displacement creates additional strain and affects the well-being of patients. When rising rents push residents out of gentrifying neighborhoods, patients are often forced to move far away from health care providers. Over 34 percent of survey respondents travel more than 30 minutes to reach their appointments, with many reporting commutes over two hours long.

When public transportation fails, patient health suffers. Missing appointments means that medical concerns can go unchecked and can lead to an increase in chronic hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room. In addition, patients can experience negative health impacts due to the stress of long and difficult commutes.

In EJ communities, exposure to environmental inequities like waste incinerators, power plants and other polluting industries, combined with a dearth of fresh food and green space leads to higher rates of illness and disease. Our communities are more likely to need medical care, and less likely to have reliable access to it.

"It is impossible to avoid the need for organizing and systems change when 60 percent of our patients are missing health care appointments - and work, school and more - due to bus service. This burden is carried overwhelmingly by black and Latino patients," said Abigail.

In September, the results of the survey were shared in a gathering of health care professionals in Boston. Community health centers have joined us to support better public transportation by advocating for a permanent Youth Pass, a tiered fare structure on THE RIDE, improved service on key bus routes used by low-income people of color, and by inviting patients to join our T Riders Union (TRU) to fight for transit justice. Directors of the centers are also pushing for a Racial Justice and Equity Commission in Boston to create equity in all areas of life that impact health outcomes.

Thank you to the Center for Community Health, Education, Research and Service, Codman Square Health Center, Fenway Community Health Center, Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, JP Tree of Life/Arbol de Vida, JP Racial Justice and Equity Collaborative, South End Community Health Center, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Kevin Odell of On the Move, and Nashira Baril for your leadership for racial and transit justice and to the Boston Alliance for Community Health for funding this initiative! We look forward to continuing this work together. 

Elections tomorrow: Where do city council candidates stand?

November 2, 2015

Thanks for coming to our Annual Meeting!
Thank you for making our Annual Meeting such a blast last week! We're happy to introduce Genea Foster as our newest board member and look forward to her leadership and guidance. We also thank departing board members Neenah Estrella-Luna and Donna Dear for their many years of service as their terms come to a close.

Join us to follow up on our development and gentrification discussions next Thursday, November 12, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. New to ACE? You're invited to our People's Power Seminar on Saturday, November 14 for an orientation and Toxic Tour.

Don't forget to vote on Election Day tomorrow, November 3! For those of you who are registered in Boston, please check the position of city council candidates on key issues like affordable housing, raising the minimum wages and expanding youth jobs. See MassVOTE's questionnaire.

Also, the councilors and candidates that Right to the City - Boston has on record for supporting our Just Cause Eviction policy are:

Marching for a Just Cause Eviction policy Councilors:
Frank Baker (District 3)
Michael Flaherty (At-Large)
Tito Jackson (District 7)
Stephen Murphy (At-Large)
Ayanna Pressley (At-Large)
Michelle Wu (At-Large)
Charles Yancey (District 4)

Andrea Campbell (District 4)
Charles Clemons (District 7)
Annissa Essaibi-George (At-Large)

Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information, check your Massachusetts polling location and see sample Boston ballots.

Annual Meeting next Thursday

October 20, 2015
Join us at our Annual Meeting!
We're looking forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 29! We're excited to share our plans and goals for the next year, elect Board members and celebrate our work together over dinner.

We'll also continue conversations on gentrification and displacement from the Right to Remain Assembly earlier this month, where hundreds of our members and partners in Right to the City - Boston came together to demand a Just Cause Eviction policy in Boston.

Marching for a Just Cause Eviction policy Residents shared how extreme rent increases and evictions threaten to displace low-income families and rallied for a citywide policy that would offer basic protections to tenants.

Several city councilors in attendance pledged to back a Just Cause Eviction policy in Boston. Councilors Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty, Tito Jackson, Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu and Charles Yancey gave their support, along with city council candidates Andrea Campbell, Charles Clemons and Annissa Essaibi-George.

Thank you to everyone who came out to march with us, share your story and build power for our right to remain! We hope to see you at our Annual Meeting to keep this work going.

Enroll in the Youth Pass pilot today

Sign up for a Youth Pass today! October 20, 2015

Are you a young person looking for more affordable transit options - or know someone who is? There's still time to sign up for a Youth Pass!

With the school year underway (and Student Pass program back up), space in our Youth Pass pilot has become available. This means more openings for youth who don't receive passes from school and still need a way to get to work, class, extracurricular activities and doctor's appointments.

The Youth Pass is a result of eight years of sustained, youth-led organizing, and is open to 1,500 riders ages 12 to 21 in Boston, Chelsea, Malden and Somerville.

Enrollment is rolling and participants may choose between weekly ($7) or monthly ($26) passes.

The pilot program also demonstrates the need for affordable transportation, and provides data on youth ridership that will be important when MBTA and MassDOT officials consider whether to implement a permanent Youth Pass.

The program began on July 1, 2015, and will run until June 30, 2016. Find out if you're eligible to participate and sign up today - if you are eligible and have previously signed up, please register again to ensure a spot on the list.

In our community

October 20, 2015

Congratulations, Haley House! Art in Dudley Square

Earlier this month, REEP Youth Organizers and members visited "The Faces of Dudley" exhibit at the Dudley Square Library, part of artist JR's worldwide Inside Out Project.

The portraits provide an opportunity to reflect on the #Right2Remain in Roxbury. Will the forces of gentrification and displacement change the face of our community?

Calling all members!

Renew your membership this fall with a donation of $5 or more. Not a member yet? Sign up today!

Member Profile: Sue Harden, ACE member

October 20, 2015

Sue is an ACE member and active member of our Massachusetts EJ Alliance.

My husband and I lived aboard our boat in East Boston in the harbor and we got on the subway one day with somebody that had some sort of sticker on. I’d been looking to make connections because I’d been in environmental justice and social justice work my entire life. I met this gal with the sticker and went to a meeting with ACE lawyers Staci Rubin and Gene Benson. We sat around this paper-covered table and I thought, this is really interesting. The people were committed and very, very productive.

The need for an Executive Order on Environmental Justice became evident when I started working with community groups in Chelsea and East Boston. Before, I was an environmental activist and a social activist but I never really saw the intersection of the two.

What I learned through ACE is that they are at a very important intersection. These pieces all fit together. Sometimes I’m talking strictly about environmental justice, or sometimes I’m saying let’s plant more perennials so we can get the carbon back in the soil. It’s all integrated-it’s all pieces of the same puzzle.

In Chelsea and East Boston we were working on the ethanol campaign. It’s just such a pleasure to spend time together and to know you can get the job done and get support from one another. Without camaraderie, it’s pretty hard to do something like this.

The campaign for the EJ EO was as statewide as possible. We started collecting these postcards saying that environmental justice was important. I said that we needed to demonstrate that these came from the state of Massachusetts and not just from ACE and its friends. We wanted to be very sure that we had postcards from everywhere, including Deval Patrick’s hometown. We had them from Fitchburg to Holyoke, from the Berkshires to Boston, from Cape Cod. We covered the state.

I colored in each part of the map that we had postcards from. The map showed that it really was from those individual places, and the number of postcards spoke for itself. We walked in with the map and with the postcards and it was pretty dramatic.

After finally getting it passed and thinking Wahoo, We’re done, we weren’t done. We had to keep the pressure on. Now we’re having listening sessions with all the state agencies on how they will implement the Executive Order.

When we had the Executive Order signed, that was just such a moment. Being in the presence of the group of people-professors from Northeastern, lawyers who are donating their time, and all the other folks-that’s the payoff.

People wonder why would you do something like this, but the payoff is in your heart and in the sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself, making a difference, being able to use that difference and go forward with it. It’s been just a terrific ride.

Updates and appreciations

September 24, 2015

New faces this fall
We're excited to be working with some new folks this year: Nina, a Youth Organizer elected by REEP in August and Giselle, a Life Together Fellow working on membership and organizing. We also have two law student interns: Leslie, who will be working with returning intern Evan on environmental justice policy and legislation, regulatory reform, and affordable housing issues. We look forward to sharing their work with you.

Congratulations, Haley House! A decade of delectable excellence
Congratulations to Haley House Bakery Café on their 10-year anniversary in Dudley Square! We remember when the café was just an idea, and your organizers talked to people and organizations in the area to see if there was a need for a space to gather and break bread. (We said yes!)

Now, after a decade of providing job and skills training to community members, Haley House is expanding and opening a new worker co-op, Dudley Dough, on October 5. Much love to our friends at Haley House for their dedication to delicious food and community, commitment to social and economic justice, and many years of partnership and solidarity.

Have you renewed?
It's that time of the year - renew your membership with ACE with a donation of $5 or more. Not a member yet? Sign up today!

Congrats newly elected Youth Organizers! Looking to get involved?
Join us at our volunteer nights this fall, which happen every other Wednesday. The next volunteer night is on Wednesday, September 30, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. when we'll be calling to invite members to our Annual Meeting.

Also, help build support for transit justice: Our T Riders Union is looking for volunteers to collect signatures for our transit justice platform. Contact us to learn more.

Don't miss out
We're looking forward to seeing you on Thursday, October 29, for our Annual Meeting. Join us for dinner, elect new Board members and learn about our plan and goals for the next year.

Thursday, October 29, 2015
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
First Church of Roxbury (White Church)
10 Putnam Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Note: To be eligible to vote at the Annual Meeting, members must have volunteered for at least 15 hours this year. This includes time spent attending actions and events like monthly member meetings, youth pass marches and Jammin' for Justice.

We're hiring!

September 24, 2015

We're hiring! Join us in working for environmental justice!

We are accepting applications for a full-time Development Director.

The Development Director will manage all aspects of ACE's fundraising efforts, including membership, annual giving, major gifts, special projects and events, planned giving, government and foundation grants.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Women and people of color strongly encouraged to apply.

View the full job description on our website and apply by sending a resume and cover letter to

Climate quilt shows community solutions

September 24, 2015

Youth Organizer Asia with our quilt patch Last month, we participated in a climate justice quilt project organized by the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), of which ACE is a member. As part of CJA's Our Power campaign, allied organizations across the country designed a patch to reflect community solutions to the devastating impacts of climate change.

Our quilt square is inspired by the message that it takes roots to weather the storm. The tree anchors the image as well as our work - in our strategy sessions, members map campaigns on drawings of trees, listing root issues, possible solutions and the effects of change.

The tree's branches represent our three programs, and the leaves, our campaigns that grow a movement of people for environmental and social justice. Together, we are breaking through entrenched and concrete systems to build a greener, more sustainable future. Our work together is rooted in love and community - based in Dudley Square, we're also in the heart of Boston's black community, and the geographic center of the city.

The completed quilt arrived in New Orleans on August 29 to mark the 10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. As we remembered this tragedy, the quilt symbolized the ongoing work to build resilient communities in the face of the devastating impacts of climate change.

About Our Power: Comprised of community groups across the U.S., the Our Power campaign works to end the era of extreme energy, create millions of green jobs and implement a just transition to local, sustainable economies. We envision communities with quality public transportation, affordable and durable housing, clean energy, regional food systems, healthy ecosystems, and zero waste.