Transit Stories: Shalese Ford

Boston, Massachusetts

I grew up in Boston but went to college in Ohio, and when I went to Cleveland or Columbus I could see how broken their transit was. Anything I said about MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), it was like, I take it all back. 

But there’s still plenty to improve here.

I’d majored in environmental studies and thought maybe I could get a job with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) or an environmental non-profit. But this was 2009, and the job market was absolute shit. So, I took a job as a dog grooming assistant at a Petco in Dedham. My family had a car but they used it for their own needs. I didn’t make a lot of money and used transit. A lot of what I earned went to transportation, just refilling the cards. And, because I was taking a bus, a train, and another bus, I spent a lot of time traveling. 

Sometimes I’d have to close out the grooming section and, depending on when I was getting out, I’d be getting one of the last buses. I had a 15- to 20-minute walk to the bus stop, and if I didn’t time it just right, I’d have to wait 45 minutes or an hour. It wasn’t comfortable for me, waiting alone in the dark.

After that, I landed work at an after-school program, first handling social media, then as an administrative assistant, then as a mentor to kids in the program. I wound up balancing two part-time jobs to get full-time pay, and it was a lot. Fortunately, both these jobs were at programs on the MIT campus, so I didn’t have to take as many buses — just the red line. 

Now I work at Thompson Island Outward Bound, coordinating with school partners to recruit students and engaging with families. And, after some time in the suburbs, now I live in the heart of Dorchester, where transit is accessible to me — though I wish fares were more affordable and managing CharlieCards were easier, refillable online with our balances available right away. 

But I know not everyone in the Boston area has access to transit that’s frequent and reliable. And I know from my own experience how important that is. Every person should have fast, reliable, safe transit. I hope Congress can help make that reality by investing in transit services.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

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