ON A CLEAR, chilly day in November 2004, then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney stood inside a large white tent set up on the brick plaza outside Boston City Hall. Romney wasn’t there to deliver a speech or cut a ribbon. He was there to sing a song—something he did with gusto as he joined the Kingston Trio in a rousing rendition of “M.T.A.,” the well-known ballad about a “man named Charlie” doomed to “ride forever ’neath the streets of Boston” and become “the man who never returned.”
The purpose of this unusual concert was to launch the “Charlie Card,” an electronic fare card that has now replaced tokens on the Boston subway system. “I’ve always wanted to do that, since about the fifth grade,” said Romney, after singing the song that has become not only part of American folklore, but a proud part of Boston history.
History is a complicated business, though. Sometimes places, like people with selective memories, omit parts of their history to avoid inconvenient truths. There were signs of Boston’s historical amnesia at work that day. Continue Reading
This article originally appeared on the Dig.
By Emily Hopkins
All photos: ALEX RAMIREZ
Working Title: “Fare Yikes”
Most people who have ridden the T since it did away with tokens in December 2006 recognize Charlie as a dandy fellow, dressed Don Draper-style and gleefully brandishing what we can assume to be his own CharlieCard from the window of a train.
I first heard about Charlie at summer camp in Upstate New York, years before I’d ever stepped foot in the Commonwealth. The old, grey campfire leader would weekly bring out the tune, “Charlie on the MTA,” about a man who pays a nickel to get on the T but does not have the newly requisite nickel to get off. Every day, Charlie’s wife goes down to what is now Government Center to hand him a sandwich “as the train comes rumblin’ through.”
The song says that Charlie “never returned / and his fate is still unlearned,” but it’s easy to see that he is still riding on the T—not only in our pockets and purses, but symbolically as we finally face the service cuts and fare hikes we heard about more than six months ago.
The MBTA accrued a lot of debt since 2000 due to the poor political plan of Forward Funding (the MBTA would get a penny for every nickel collected in a sales tax that Beacon Hill thought would increase; sales tax has actually fallen in the past decade) as well as the repeated borrowing the MBTA did in order to cover what that plan didn’t. Continue Reading
This post originally appeared on the Occupy Boston website.
This story starts out on point, but rapidly goes downhill. By the end, reporter Jim Armstrong is flat out lying.
As someone who was witness to this creative and principled action by the Boston Fare Strike Coalition on Friday (7/13/12), I can say that it is absolutely NOT true that all (or even most or many) of T riders “still paid their fares” even though they didn’t have to. And it is also false to assert or to suggest (as Armstrong does) that most T riders were opposed to the Fare Strikers actions. While you can find vocal antagonists to any bold action in a large crowd (and Jim Armstrong clearly did), I witnessed a wide range of responses from fellow T riders, including much support. About a thousand people took leaflets from BFSC explaining the logic behind the day’s action, and most seemed to be reading them with interest. Many were verbally supportive, and some signed up to join with the next action. A large number of people thanked the activists for the free ride home. (After all, since the MBTA jacked up fares by 23%, it’s only fair that people ride one day a week for free….The Banks get a Free Ride–continuing to profit off interest on the MBTA debt–Why can’t We? Public Transit Should be Free!)
Also, it should be pointed out that the fare strikers, while perhaps mostly under 35, also include many individuals quite a bit older than that. Quite a few appeared to be in their fifties, sixties, or even seventies. It is a multi-generational coalition. Not just a bunch of “kids.”
Jim Armstrong: putting the BS in CBS.
Check out the story in The Boston Occupier for more accurate and informed coverage of the Boston Fare Strike Coalition’s “Free Friday” action:: http://bostonoccupier.com/2012/07/15/boston-fare-strike-coalition-declares-fare-free-friday/
See footage of the action:
All are welcome to the next public meeting of the Fare Strike Coalition: Thursday, July 19 at 6:00 PM, by the Boston Common gazebo. (Rain location: City Place food court, off the Alley.)
Submitted by Joseph Ramsay
By Jay Jubilee
This article originally appeared in the Boston Occupier.
Boston T riders at several downtown subway stations received a welcome surprise during their evening commute yesterday (Friday, July 13th): a Fare Free Ride home.
Entering train stations at Chinatown, Downtown Crossing, as well as at Central Square and Harvard Square, passengers found the electronic turnstiles held open for them, by a group of local activists known as the Boston Fare Strike Coalition.
Holding signs and banners bearing the slogan, “They say fare HIKE, We Say Fare STRIKE!” the thirty-plus “fare strikers” welcomed T-riders inside with the announcement that “this T station has been liberated,” and that “Today the T is free for all.” Boston Fare Stike Coalition has vowed to build opposition to the MBTA’s recently implemented fare hikes, which they consider to be both unnecessary and unfair.
Train stations echoed with the rhyming chant: “The Banks Got a Free Ride, Why Can’t We?…Public Transportation Should Be Free!” According to participants, the slogan calls attention to the way bankrupt private banks got bailed out by taxpayers, while public agencies and T riders facing similar deficits are offered no such “bailout,” but left to “suck it up” and “tighten their belts.” Continue Reading