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Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director

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MBTA Subways in Boston 2003  

by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2000-2003




From: Sharon Kubo <sharonkubo@yahoo.com>

Date: November 17, 2003 1:01:19 PM EST

To: gm@mbta.com

Subject: MBTA and a Boston tradition

Reply-To: kubo@pobox.com


Dear MBTA:

I lived in and around Boston for over 20 years. I have never owned a car, always relying on public transit. Today I write to you as a frustrated customer of the MBTA, in objection to your soon-to-be-implemented new policies, regarding musicians and performers in the MBTA.

Boston is a pedestrian city and a tourist city. Street musicians and performers -- especially those most dedicated musicians who earn a living year-round solely by their performing -- are an integral part of thislandscape. Earning a living by performing on the street is notoriously difficult. Many who do so may be homeless, or living close to the line.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Harvard Square are good examples of a symbiotic relationship where these artists (while themselves living in the margins) add greater value to the locations where they perform: encouraging families to linger, crowds to shop, and tourists to enjoy. These areas have both nurtured AND managed street performance; doing so with input from the artists themselves, in community forums or public hearings organized to facilitate buy-in from all involved.

Why not the MBTA?

Especially given the current climate of customer dissatisfaction with the MBTA, I think The 'T's unilateral new policies governing street artists are headed in the wrong direction - suppressing rather than encouraging an atmosphere for performance. I have several objections to the new rulings:

-- lack of due process (no public notice, public hearings, or outreach to performers whose livelihood will be affected)

-- no opportunity for community involvement in the new regulations

-- policies seem to be contrary to public sentiment of T riders

-- false crisis and an inappropriate response to "security" concerns

-- discouraging a traditional benefit for tourists and commuters

-- withdrawal of support for the arts in everyday life

-- making it more difficult for working poor artists on the margins to afford performing at all


In conclusion - I remind the MBTA to include community input on decisions affecting performances. I urge the MBTA to rescind your new policy and allow the artists to continue to perform as they have.


Sharon Kubo


From: lory_hough@Harvard.Edu

Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 15:34:11 -0500

To: gm@mbta.com <0xLF21zgm@mbta.com>

Cc: goffice@state.ma.us, rtisei@senate.state.ma.us, rep.maikfesta@hou.state.ma.us

Subject: proposed street musician policies


I just read the story in the Boston Globe about the new policies going into effect regarding live music in the subway.

As a commuter who spends a lot of time in subway stations going back and forth to work, waiting for trains is not one of the highlights of my day.

The crowds can be frustrating and the wait is usually even worse. By far, one of the best things about commuting on public transportation is the street musicians. It's a treat to hear a local (and amazingly talented) musician playing when I'm waiting for a train. No question about it.

If you ban amplification and electric equipment, how in the world are we going to hear them? I have NEVER not heard the T's announcements because of the music. (It's not like some six-member rock band is plugged in. It's almost always just one person with a guitar or keyboard!) And a dress code?

Come on! They're musicians sitting on hard benches for hours playing in the middle of dirty subways. If you're worried about how things "look," you should spend more time painting and sprucing up the older stations, not going after artists who are just trying to make a living.

Lory Hough


> From: paul lowenstein <plowenstein1973@yahoo.com>

> Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 06:46:03 -0800 (PST)

> To: mail@communityartsadvocates.org, rachel@rachelmccartney.com,

> liz@noordinary.org

> Subject: Amplifiers ban in the T


Hey there-

Honestly, I don't know where the T gets their info from, but I have never heard complaints about not being able to hear "important" T announcements due to loud amplifiers. The only times I HAVE had problems hearing announcements is when the actual PA system is faulty or the announcer does not speak loud enough or mumbles (with no music playing in the background either). I was talking to a friend about this and he suggested digital displays for announcements.

The T's reasoning for banning amplifiers is ludicrous! Or perhaps, if nothing else, they can bend a bit and allow the volume to go to a certain level? Just a thought. I was able to sign the petition yesterday at Porter.


All the best-


Letter of Support from State Representative Patricia Jehlen


November 25, 2003

Michael Mulhern, Chairman, MBTA

10 Park Plaza, Room 4810,

Boston, MA 02116


Dear Mr. Mulhern:

I am writing to express my strong objection to the new MBTA guidelines that would restrict musicians in subway stations. The MBTA should hold off on this new policy and hold a public hearing so it can formulate a better policy that is more sensitive to riders. Having recently raised fares, in a very unpopular move, it is surprising the T would take this step without public input.

I fear that making policy without the input of the community is becoming more common at the MBTA. In addition to the musician guidelines, I am also dismayed by the bidding process in the Porter Sq station area that was conducted without any community input.

While I believe there are some relevant concerns outlined by the T, like locations of musicians that don't obstruct traffic, most of the changes are totally irrelevant to any "security" concerns. Many Somerville riders, including me, enjoy the music and feel it is one of the few areas in which Boston has a better transit system than, for example, DC. Often my whole day is nicer because of hearing a good song on my way to work or home, and I keep humming it during the day.

This new policy is far too draconian and needs serious modification. I would suggest setting appropriate decibels if volume levels are a major concern. Additionally, since announcements are often unintelligible anyway, maybe there are other means to improve communication in subway stations.

I strongly urge you to postpone implementation of this policy, have a public comment period and hearing, and establish an advisory committee on arts in the subways, so that you can modify the proposed policy to meet public concerns.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response.



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