UMD rally-goers push for better public transit

DARTMOUTH — Calling for better public transit in Massachusetts, about 20 people turned out for the Step Up for Public Transportation rally at UMass Dartmouth Thursday night.

Led by the UMass Dartmouth chapter of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, the rally featured a number of speakers from local unions and riders’ interest groups and a performance by the UMass Dartmouth Ground Breakers step team.

“We see public transportation as a much bigger issue than just the MBTA,” said UMass Dartmouth MASSPIRG organizer Patrick Nagle. “We’re hoping that the state will not just put a Band-aid on things for a year and will properly fund public transit.”

Nagle described the public transportation system in Massachusetts as inadequate and said the state must properly fund a system for the entire state and “not just Boston.”

But the MBTA wasn’t the only thing on the agenda. The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority was in the assembled coalition’s cross hairs as well.

“The buses don’t run past 6 p.m.; they don’t run on Sundays,” said Bus Riders United Community Organizer Siggy Meilus, who relies on SRTA buses to get to and from campus.

To petition New Bedford and Fall River Mayors Jon Mitchell and William Flanagan, both voting members of the SRTA Advisory Board, for better services, Meilus has started a postcard mailing campaign. So far, her efforts have seen 2,000 postcards mailed, she said.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1037 President Gary Pires urged attendees to go beyond mailing postcards.

“I urge you to come attend the committee meetings,” he said, referring to advisory board sessions. “When a number of people show up to those meetings, they take notice.”

Pires said forcing the regional transit authorities to borrow money was part of the state’s problem.

“We need forward-funding for our RTAs, like SRTA, and a dedicated funding stream,” he said.

Nagle capped the event with a brief speech.

“It’s time to make an investment in statewide public transportation from the Berkshires to the Cape,” he said. “We can’t ensure a strong future for Massachusetts unless we step up for public transit.”