State transportation policies fail communities of color

More can be done to address public health and environmental inequities

CommonWealth Magazine by Maria Belen Power and Chris Demsey

IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND the intersection of public health, transportation, and the environment, come visit Chelsea.   

Though just 2.5 square miles and one of the densest municipalities in the state, the community is cut in two by Route 1 and the Tobin Bridge. It hosts one of the largest fruit and vegetable distribution centers in the country — bringing hundreds of diesel-fueled trucks onto its streets day after day. Oil tanks dotting the shores of the brackish Chelsea Creek store all of the jet fuel used by Logan Airport and a staggering three-quarters of the region’s home heating fuel supply.  

As a result, Chelsea is home to some of the worst air quality in the state. The people of Chelsea suffer from the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations of any community in Massachusetts. The airborne particulate matter spewed by vehicle tailpipes leads to higher rates of heart disease for elderly residents, greater risk of complications for pregnant mothers, and lower test scores for students. Chelsea’s environmental and public health burdens demonstrate the many ways that the Commonwealth’s transportation policies are failing working-class communities of color.  

Those inequities also extend to opportunities to access jobs. Despite its density and proximity to employment centers, Chelsea is poorly served by quality public transit. Chelsea’s lifeline to Downtown Boston is the #111 bus, which serves more than 12,000 trips per day. But as traffic backs up on the Tobin Bridge, that bus can regularly take 45 minutes or more to go 2.7 miles from central Chelsea to its terminus at Haymarket — an average speed of less than 4 miles per hour. It would be faster to walk or bike over the Tobin, but MassDOT long ago made both of those activities illegal. Instead, Chelsea residents trying to get to work or appointments cram like sardines onto buses. The MBTA’s new “Silver Line III” service has added a new transit option, but this bus still gets stuck in vehicular traffic in the Ted Williams Tunnel; and it halts completely each time the Chelsea Street Drawbridge is raised to accommodate those fuel deliveries on Chelsea Creek. The commuter rail line through Chelsea serves just one stop (Wellesley, a community with just three-quarters of the population of Chelsea, has three stops). 

These transportation inequities and negative public health outcomes impact similar communities all over the Commonwealth. Springfield was named the asthma capital of the United States by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, and yet its regional transit authority that provides critical bus service in Springfield was forced to cut routes and hours due to lack of funding. Because state aid for local roads includes a weighting for lane-miles, dense, urban, Lawrence receives half as much funding per-capita ($17) as sprawling, wealthy communities such as Concord ($38) or Lincoln ($40). As our climate warms, many urban communities will suffer increased flooding from non-porous road infrastructure and the “heat-island” effect of all that concrete and asphalt, further exacerbating air quality and public health outcomes. 

Our organizations, T4MA and GreenRoots, take different but complementary approaches to addressing these fundamental problems. We recognize that in order to improve equity for communities like Chelsea, our advocacy needs to be fierce, flexible, and focused on the right policies and policymakers. GreenRoots works on the front lines of Chelsea’s transportation challenges.

This grassroots approach seeks to improve transit justice, environmental justice, and public health by fighting for improved transit service on the #111, #116/117 and other key bus routes, advocating for safer street infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and working with local stakeholders to convert delivery trucks to cleaner vehicles. T4MA works at the state level to advocate for reduced congestion on the Tobin Bridge and other regional roads through smarter tolling, more robust state investment in transit from progressive revenue sources, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions through environmental reforms like the Transportation & Climate Initiative. 

Any of these policies hold promise — and all of them must make progress in the year ahead. However, they need to be developed and shaped by a broad base of stakeholders, primarily including the communities most impacted by transit and environmental injustices. As we transition from a fossil fuel economy to a regenerative and renewable one, we have to work together to ensure those most-impacted by the climate crisis are at the forefront of the green economy.

If we get it right, the result will be well-paying jobs for working class communities, electrification of bus fleets in environmental justice communities, and meaningful investments in public transit infrastructure like the MBTA and regional transit authorities. The future of Chelsea and communities like it will be more equitable, healthier, and more resilient if, and only if, the policies we develop today are based on principles of equity and environmental justice.  

María Belén Power is the associate executive director of GreenRoots, based in Chelsea. Chris Dempsey is the director of the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition.  

That frustrating trip over the Tobin Bridge will soon get worse

The Boston Globe by Adam Vaccaro

That grinding commute over the Tobin Bridge is about to get even slower.

Beginning in April, the state will begin to close lanes on the northbound side of the bridge, followed in May by more closures in both directions where Route 1 winds through Chelsea on a viaduct. The closures are necessary to repair and repave the bridge and viaduct and will last through much of 2020.

State officials aren’t exactly sugar-coating things: It’s going to be messy — and not just around the Tobin.

“Vehicle backups are expected to extend onto the I-93 ramps, along the Leverett Connector, and towards Rutherford Avenue,” the state said in a news release this past week.

And during the morning commute, the Chelsea viaduct work could cause backups stretching as far north as the Route 60 rotary.

State officials are asking motorists to use public transportation if they can during the work and said the MBTA will run additional Blue Line service. The T is also offering some free bus rides in Chelsea, where many commuters have worried about backups from the construction affecting the popular 111 bus that goes over the Tobin and into downtown.

Inbound riders will be allowed to board without paying at four Chelsea stations of the new Silver Line branch, which runs on a bus-only road through the city toward Boston.

The Chelsea nonprofit Green Roots had pushed the T to cut fares on the 111 as well during construction. Associate executive director Maria Belen Power said she will still push for 111 discounts but noted the free Silver Line rides are at least a positive step.

“I do feel like this is more than we had before, and any economic relief to transit riders in Chelsea is welcome,” she said.

We're HIRING: Waterfront Initiative Organizer

Organizational Overview

GreenRoots is a member-led organization with a 25-year legacy for fighting for and advancing environmental and social justice in Chelsea and surrounding communities. We engage the most impacted residents, empower them to become vocal and strong leaders and implement innovative campaigns. The mission of GreenRoots is to achieve environmental justice and greater quality of life through collective action, unity, education and youth leadership across neighborhoods and communities. We do so through deep community engagement and empowerment, youth leadership and implementation of innovative projects and campaigns.

Job Overview

The Waterfront Initiative Community Organizer will work closely with the Waterfront Initiative Coordinator and GreenRoots directors to continue building a comprehensive, grassroots, base-building campaign that results in broad-based resident engagement. In particular, the Community Organizer will engage the most ethnically and racially diverse, lowest income and hardest to reach residents who live in neighborhoods adjacent to the Chelsea Creek in efforts to revitalize the waterfront, on both the Chelsea and East Boston sides to create an inclusive public realm along the river.

The Community Organizer will help grow GreenRoots’ base of engaged residents and will be required to implement an aggressive door-knocking initiative in the waterfront neighborhoods. The Organizer will implement strategies of engagement, base building and political education around environmental justice, climate justice and waterfront development. She/he will do this by engaging residents in regular community meetings that address their concerns and draws connections to broader structural issues of justice, equity and power.

Responsibilities include, but not limited to:

  • Work closely with the Waterfront Initiative Coordinator and Directors to build a diverse base of residents engaged around the Chelsea Creek.

  • Lead and implement grassroots organizing efforts to engage low-income residents, immigrants, people of color and youth in regular community meetings to discuss projects, campaigns and issues concerning the waterfront neighborhoods.

  • Implement door-knocking strategies to engage residents on both sides of the Chelsea Creek in issues concerning waterfront development as well as broader environmental and climate justice issues.

  • Seek out and implement training opportunities for residents, including, but not limited to civic engagement, leadership development, power-analysis and political education.

  • Understand and use the Chelsea Creek Community Vision Plan as an advocacy tool

  • Work with residents to update the Chelsea Creek Community Vision Plan.

  • Engage residents in the redevelopment of key parcels of land along the Chelsea Creek.

  • Attend and recruit residents to strategic community and municipal meetings that relate to environmental and climate justice as well as waterfront development.

  • Ensure that residents feel engaged in and connected to the organizational mission and vision.

  • Work together with all GreenRoots staff to incorporate waterfront initiatives into the overall organizational mission, goals and programs.


  • Four years of experience in community organizing, or relevant experience, including door-knocking, meeting organizing and facilitation, outreach and engagement strategies including popular education.

  • Strong understanding and commitment to the values and principles of grassroots organizing

  • Experience in conducting base-building work

  • Required proficiency in English and Spanish: oral and written

  • Residence in Chelsea or East Boston preferred

  • Required knowledge of East Boston and Chelsea community

  • Strong understanding and commitment to the principles of environmental and climate justice

  • Strong communication skills

  • Strong organizational and interpersonal skills

  • Ability to work in a team, as well as to take initiative and work independently

  • Ability to work and relate with a diverse range of people and organizations

  • Ability to motivate participation and community engagement

  • Ability to represent GreenRoots in a professional manner to a wide range of partners, institutions and community-based organizations

  • Ability to work some evenings and weekends.

GreenRoots is looking for a Community Organizer who is a quick learner, articulate and thoughtful. The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic, flexible, self-motivated, dependable, responsible and creative with a strong political analysis rooted in social justice.


Full-time salary ranging from $35K-$40K, depending on experience, and a healthy benefits package.

Required Start Date:

April 1, 2019

To Apply:

Please send cover letter, resume and writing sample by Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 to:

Roseann Bongiovanni


227 Marginal Street Suite 1

Chelsea, MA 02150


The Chelsea Project

Frank News by Maria Belen Power

This interview with Maria Belen Power, of Green Roots, was conducted and condensed by frank news. Photos by Haley Albert.

Chelsea is the smallest and second most densely populated city in the state of Massachusetts. It's about 1.8 square miles and has 38,000 residents, although we know it's hugely under counted because of immigration status. There is an estimate of 45,000 residents. We are surrounded by water in three ways. The Chelsea Creek, the Island End River, The Mill Creek, and they come together in The Mystic. 70% identified as a racial or ethnic minority. 60% are Latino. 24% live below the poverty level, which is above the 10% state average. There are about 35 languages spoken at Chelsea public schools. That gives you an insight into the diversity.

I live and work in Chelsea, but I'm originally from Nicaragua. Our work is environmental justice, and we do that through community organizing and base building. Our justice coalition is an organization convened by Community Labor United. It's a coalition of community organizations, environmental organizations, and labor. It's within the Green Justice Coalition that a lot of our energy democracy work plays out.

Why is Chelsea the best choice for this pilot program of a microgrid?

I think there's two ways to look at that. When you look at the industrial burden and the environmental burden the city of Chelsea carries for the entire region, we don't think it's a coincidence that our folks are people of color, low income, immigrants, non-English speakers, etc. This is a clear case of environmental racism and environmental injustice, and that's a part of our work. The Chelsea Creek, one of the waterways that surrounds Chelsea, holds 100% of the jet fuel used at Logan Airport. The creek is also 70-80% of the region's home heating fuel. Also along the Chelsea Creek is the largest road salt pile in the Northeast. All of the road salt that is used in all of New England, over 350 communities use the salt, is stored on the banks of the Chelsea Creek. The rest of the waterfront is covered by airport related parking and other industries. This isn't a burden that everybody carries. It's also not something that happens in every community in Massachusetts. It happens in low income communities and communities of color.

On the other hand, the possibility of doing the microgrid pilot exists because we are such a small and tight knit community, and organizations like Green Roots have been base building and community organizing for 25 years and have a real connection to the different stakeholders and players in Chelsea. While we're not always in agreement, we have great relationships with folks at City Hall. We also have good dialogue with the industries. We have a quarterly round table with the oil industries on the Chelsea Creek as a way of holding them accountable and really making sure they're responding to the fears and needs of the community.

Are they responsive?

It goes up and down. Sometimes they are more responsive than others. There's a part of it where they want to be good neighbors. There's another part of it that we, as Green Roots, see a future where the oil industries are no longer here. That's not going to happen tomorrow, so at the time, we want to be in dialogue with them so we hold them accountable. One of the things they're not happy about is a lantern event we had with our youth group. They displayed all of the contaminants the oil terminals had spilled into the creek. We used the EPA's data, and created lanterns that were color coded by company, by chemical, and by year. It was a way of sharing data with our community. Of course the oil terminals were not happy about it. It did open a conversation for us. At the next round table meeting we talked about these violations. The EPA and the federal government are not doing anything about it. The only thing we have to resort to are these local relationships we have, and for them to respond to the community.

In terms of the microgrid pilot we are one of two communities within the Green Justice Coalition running the pilot. One is in Chelsea, one is in Chinatown with our partners at the Chinese Progressive Association. Our models are very similar in terms of being ground up, being led by the community, and the buildings that were chosen came from our members. Both of our organizations are membership led. Our decisions are informed by our members.

At the beginning we were looking at a map of Chelsea, and we were thinking, "What are the areas that are most prone to either flooding or to being impacted by an environmental disaster or hurricane or storm?" We were looking at the waterfront. In terms of buildings that would be the first hit during a storm. We quickly realized Chelsea is so small, and we want to be able to connect the microgrid to other buildings that are in other places of the city. Instead of looking at geographic locations, we started thinking about, "What are the populations that are most at risk?" And what is the key infrastructure, the critical infrastructure, that would need to be kept on? We came up with a lot. We came up with a huge list of buildings, including City Hall, the senior center, the police department, the fire department, the 911 center, two medical facilities. We included the Chelsea public schools, the Chelsea housing authority for the public housing tenants, the New England Produce Center which is a huge distributor of fresh produce and vegetables. We also included T&E as the neighborhood developers. It's the local CDC, the local community development corporation that provides affordable housing.

What are the next steps for installing and working off of the microgrid logistically?

The first step was choosing the buildings. The next step was getting their energy usage data. We ask for their utility bills for the past twelve months. Right now we're in the feasibility study, trying to prove that this is possible and it's sustainable. That we can actually build this. After gathering utility bills, then we hone in on three buildings. The three buildings were City Hall, Beth Israel Medical Center, and a public housing building of the houses seniors and disabled folks.

The Green Justice Coalition partnered with a group of technical folks to help us develop the microgrid model. Our expertise is in base building and in community and in developing long-lasting relationships. Our expertise is not in this technical world of how can we create a microgrid that can physically disconnect with the grid if there was a power outage. We partnered with the RUN team, resilient urban neighborhoods, made up of six different entities that are engineers, have worked in the industry, in the utility, and have really experience in the technical piece of the microgrid. Maria: So that coalition, the RUN GJC, there's a lot of acronyms.

The RUN GJC team are developing this model. We are pulling the relationships we have on the ground. We are facilitating the gathering of the data. We're actually implementing a survey in the community around energy usage, around climate resiliency, to make sure we're grounding this project in the community. Then the technical folks are doing their piece which is developing the model of how would it work. What is the capacity for each building to host either solar panels or battery storage, and how can you plug that into the other buildings?

The difference between the Chinatown model and the Chelsea model is that in Chelsea we're pursuing a municipally owned microgrid. A microgrid that's managed, owned, and operated by the city. So that it's more accountable to the ratepayers and to the residents. That's one of the pieces we're really excited about, the municipalization of energy which we think is a step towards energy democracy. We've had a couple meetings with the city manager and with folks at City Hall to figure out how that would work and what we need to do. We're also pursuing community choice energy for the city to be able to decide where they purchase their energy from. Several cities in the state of Massachusetts have gone in that direction and are getting lower rates and more renewable energy because they've chosen a different utility, a different energy provider.

How has the community been responding? 

A microgrid is not a new thing, and I think the reason why our project is exciting is because this is not a helicopter down, top down, model where an investor or a utility company says, "Hey, this would work for you. Let's do it in buildings A, B, and C." It's actually been a ground up model where a community based organization like Green Roots who has been deep in community work in Chelsea, is the one that led the charge into choosing which buildings the community feel are the most critical. Before this feasibility study started, I was like, "Really, a microgrid? Why are we doing a microgrid? This sounds so wonky and technical and boring," but the more we learn about it, the more we do it, I think it does prove a very exciting way of doing things that really centers community and is rooted in community.

Hurricane Maria had just hit Puerto Rico, and we were talking about the microgrid. We were talking about the priorities for Green Roots. Around September 2017 we were having this retreat, and folks were prioritizing the areas of work that we should focus on. The microgrid and energy democracy came at the very top. A lot of staff at Green Roots were shocked because, like I said, it just seemed so technical and wonky and boring, and just not the kind of stuff we're used to doing. We're used to doing a lot more community organizing and fighting proposals and doing petitions and protesting. It's a much different direction to be thinking about how do we create the solutions? It became clear that this connected with the residents because of Hurricane Maria, and it became an opportunity for us to think about how do we do things differently? What would it look like if Hurricane Maria had hit Chelsea, and how could we be better prepared to deal with a disaster like that and the energy infrastructure that's not set up to sustain that?

If Rosa Parks rode a bus in Boston today, she’d see nearly the same segregation she fought

The Boston Globe by Nestor Ramos

What would Rosa Parks see if she boarded a bus in Boston today?

Parks now symbolically rides every MBTA bus. Thanks to a law signed last month, a decal or LED sign on every bus will permanently commemorate the woman whose bravery and sacrifice became a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. Most of the decals were installed last week.

It’s a nice honor for a great American. And it’s not nearly enough.

Because if Parks were riding Boston’s buses today, she’d see inequity that’s disturbingly similar to the segregation her 1955 protest was perfectly calibrated to confront.

There are no signs enforcing segregated seating on buses anymore; bus drivers can’t order a black woman to make way for a white man. Instead, a system of structural barriers and institutional neglect ensure that de facto segregation, by race and by income, does a lot of the same dirty work.

If Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Boston today, she wouldn’t see black and white sections; she’d see a dysfunctional system that is disproportionately failing the low-income people — largely people of color and immigrants — whose livelihoods depend on it.

Black riders spend 64 hours a year longer on MBTA buses than their white counterparts, according to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a public agency charged with managing growth around Greater Boston.

Even though white and minority riders use the bus system in roughly equal numbers, differences in reliability and frequency of service on routes that serve mostly black and mostly white riders effectively steal more than a week and a half of work — 3 percent of a person’s annual productivity, skimmed right off the top.

Meanwhile, many who can afford to avoid the bus have simply opted out. Nearly half of bus riders surveyed between 2015 and 2017 by the Metropolitan Planning Organization reported household income below $58,0000 a year. Another 17 percent declined to answer the question.

These are people for whom a long delay on the T’s least reliable service means risking a job, or paying for a taxi or Uber that they can barely afford.

“It’s almost like you’re asking for a civil rights lawsuit. It’s like you’re begging for it,” said Maria Belen Power, associate executive director of the Chelsea-based environmental justice group GreenRoots. If you want to see how racism has moved from signs and slurs to systems and structures, a slow ride across the Tobin on a 111 bus packed with minority riders is a pretty good place to start.

“These studies are replicated around the nation. It’s one of the greatest transportation injustices,” said Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University.

Agyeman said Boston ought to do something much more dramatic in Parks’ name: Enact a congestion charge on private vehicles traveling to or from Boston, with the revenue going to improve transit, and bus service in particular.

“A sticker is placation, right? A sticker is the minimum you could possibly do without losing face,” Agyeman said. “We in Boston have never been about minimums.”

But even getting state approval of the stickers wasn’t exactly easy.

Natalie Ornell, a Braintree woman who spearheaded the idea to honor Parks on buses here after noticing a similar program in Miami, spent months pushing to make it a reality.

Ornell’s efforts to honor a hero have understandably been received as a feel-good story.

But the truth is a little more complicated.

“Raising awareness of T inequities is one of the many reasons why I thought this would be important for Massachusetts,” Ornell said by e-mail. “I hoped this would be a conversation starter for people on all bus routes and I hoped it could create more engagement on these issues as people ride the bus and see her name which is now permanent on the buses.”

Parks should not be a simple reminder of how far we’ve come, but a living reminder of how far we are from equity. Just 8 percent of the T’s roughly 8,000 bus stops have shelters, according to a recent MBTA report. Only 19 of the T’s 176 bus routes offer frequent, all-day service. And 63 percent of area residents are not served by any of those 19 routes, which mostly run along major corridors and feed big job centers like Longwood or Kendall Square.

“I think there are a lot of ways to build a more equitable system — state investment in public transit that doesn’t unfairly burden poor people, that’s one key way,” said Lee Matsueda, political director for the advocacy group Alternatives for Community & Environment. “If they believe in Rosa’s legacy, they’ve got to be a part of solutions like that, and stickers aren’t enough.”

But stickers are what we’re stuck with, as long as lawmakers and the governor decline to properly fund public transit.

“At the end of the day, the MBTA does not have enough revenue to run either the service we have or the service we want,” Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA advisory board said last year.

When Rosa Parks died in 2005, the front seats of city buses in Montgomery and Detroit were reserved with black ribbons. It was an elegant tribute to a towering figure in the history of the civil rights movement.

Her memory deserves every such honor. Her legacy deserves a lot more.


Chelsea Record by Marianne Salza

Chelsea Bus TaskForce 1.31.19 Chelsea Record.jpg

The people of Chelsea are demanding increased frequency on the Silver Line, more reliability, and additional bus connections from the MBTA. Over the next two years there will be three major construction projects in Chelsea that will adversely impact bus traffic, and City leaders and residents are concerned that the already poor services will worsen. “There have been big shifts in population and ridership, and the bus routes have stayed largely the same,” admitted Steve Poftak, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager.

“The T is playing catch-up.” On January 24, Poftak sat with locals and members of the City Council during the first inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall. The goal of the committee is to gather once a month for six months of interactive discussions with the community and Poftak to develop solutions. “For a lot of us who live on both of the hills, buses are the only means of transportation,” commented a Bellingham Square resident. “Every year or two, they threaten to cut off both of the hills. That would leave us totally stranded, and I’m not having it.” Many aren’t content with the massive traffic that builds with the 20 minute rising and 20 minute lowering of the Chelsea Street bridge, which slows bus travel. The MBTA noted that active discussions with the Coast Guard regarding the creation of a period of time during peak hours of commuting when the bridge does not open have been hindered by the government shutdown. “We have limited control over the bridge. Maybe we could have some predictability with windows when we know the bridge will be active and when we know it won’t,” said Poftak.

The Better Bus Project is investigating the quality of the current bus network and working on cost-neutral proposals that will result in more frequent services for customers. Researchers have been speaking with riders to learn more about where people’s trips begin and end, the economic demographics of the area, and where jobs are located. “We are advocating for fair mitigation,” expressed Council President Damali Vidot. “We’ve needed quality service for years and are working at a sub-par level. Chelsea was an afterthought in the Better Bus Project. We want to make sure we’re getting the service we deserve.” The Better Bus Project has 47 proposals for changes in the MBTA bus system that will impact 63 out of the 180 routes in 35 of the 50 communities that are served. Proposals include removing bus routes with low ridership, and re-investing resources elsewhere. The Transportation Task Force is suggesting more inspectors, less cancellations, and easier transfers between Chelsea and Lynn on the Commuter Rail. “We are re-imagining the infrastructure on Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

“We will be presenting the City Council with alternatives that do away with two fast lanes to make travel safer. One idea is incorporating a dedicated bus lane.” Gentrification has also forced many Chelsea residents to relocate to Lynn because of the high cost of rent. One Chelsea resident, who works in Lynn, voiced that it takes her up to two hours to commute from Lynn to Chelsea using public transportation. She commented that the only line that directly connects Chelsea to Everett is the 112 bus, and many avoid it due to the lifting of the bridge; and recommended that the 426 bus through Lynn could stop in Chelsea, as it already passes over the Tobin Bridge. “In the overall bus network redesign, people on the north side of the city are particularly interested in going to Lynn and Malden,” Poftak concluded. Better Bus Project proposals will be available at with maps and data. The MBTA will also be providing riders with a warm place to view proposals at Haymarket Station, where they see the most response from Chelsea residents.

The MBTA Proposes Raising Fares By An Average Of 6.3 Percent

WBUR by Simon Rios

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Listen to GreenRoots very own Transit Organizer Sarah Levy in the link above 1.30 mark

The MBTA is planning to raise fares across the transportation system by an average of 6.3 percent, an increase T officials say will boost revenue by $32 million next fiscal year to help meet rising costs.

The proposed increases would take effect July 1. The MBTA said the last time it raised fares was July 1, 2016.

T officials presented their proposal to the Fiscal Management and Control Board on Monday. The public comment period will be open until Feb. 28, and officials are asking the board to vote on the increase at its March 11 meeting.

MBTA general manager Steve Poftak labeled the proposal an incremental change that amounts to less than what is allowed under state law. (The law limits fare hikes to 7 percent over a two-year period.)

“This is, I think, a modest fare increase; it keeps pace with inflation,” Poftak said. “I also think doing it on a periodic basis where the rise is not so dramatic — I’m hopeful that this lands a little bit easier than in the not-so-distant past, where the fare increases were larger.”

How the MBTA's most common fares and passes would change (Courtesy MBTA)

How the MBTA's most common fares and passes would change (Courtesy MBTA)

Under the plan, local non-cash bus fares would increase by $.10, from $1.70 to $1.80, and CharlieCard subway fares would go from $2.25 to $2.40.

Senior and student passes would go up $2, to $32, and the monthly link pass would increase $5.50, to $90.

While most fares would see an increase, some would remain steady or even go down. Cash bus fares remain at $2 under the plan, while the Hingham/Hull ferry to Logan Airport is reduced.

The transit authority is facing a slew of cost increases, including rising health care and pension contributions, as well as contractual obligations including ferry service and snow removal that tick up annually.

One of the people who spoke against the proposed hikes at Monday's meeting was Sarah Levy, a transit and environmental justice organizer at the nonprofit Green Roots.

"We expect that you will be creative in finding new ways to bring in revenue other than placing the burden on riders," she said. "If you are truly committed to making the T more affordable and equitable, we ask that you take a step in the right direction, harnessing your innovativeness as opposed to moving in the opposite direction of your stated goals."

And state Sen. Nick Collins, a Boston Democrat, talked about how fare hikes would have a disproportionate impact on low-income people.

"With the system continuing to suffer from service and reliability issues, a fare increase would not only be unfair to riders," he said, "but would also drive away many potential users and current users from the system, worsening traffic on our road and driving increased emissions there by subverting the mission of public transit."