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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

That old MBTA magic

Gasoline prices are soaring and MBTA ridership is rising. General Manager Dan Grabauskas continues to smile his way through one accident after another service glitch with new luster on his armor. Some of you even wonder why I am so hard on him.

How about this, tucked in as the fifth paragraph of today's Globe story on an arbitration award granting T employees a 13 percent raise over 4 years:
While the T knew that raises were likely as part of these contract negotiations, it had not set aside money to cover the cost.
The depth of incompetence to not budget for a collective bargaining wage increase that is in arbitration simply takes my breath away. Yakking on about the concessions he has obtained as part of those talks can't hide the act that Grabauskas and his team failed basic accounting.

Did they really think the arbitrator would not award salary increases and make them retroactive to the start of negotiations?

And we're not talking about excessive compensation. We are talking about roughly 3 percent annually, which I would venture is probably par for the course in just about every business. The usually nasty commenters at the Herald are off base in directing their jibes at the union, which will make some significant givebacks -- beyond elimination of the asinine time off to cash a check.

No, it's Smilin' Dan who should be facing the music. How many people would be calling for Deval Patrick's recall if he uttered these words at the end of a two-year bargaining process:
"I don't have an answer for you today. It's going to be very difficult, and that's one of the things that we're going to have to figure out."
You can rest assured the answers break down into two categories: fare hikes and service cuts. Back on the Green Line the last few days -- because the humidity makes it unpleasant for my co-workers if I walk -- I am struck once more by the number of fares that never make it into the box because of trains (and buses) that refuse to run on a coherent schedule.

We were promised improved fare collection with the CharlieCard system that dramatically slows things up on the Green Line and buses. So why the need to roll out a new system on commuter rail?

With fuel costs climbing to the stratosphere and eating up every larger chunks of the additional fares that are collected, how will they pay for it?

Here's one suggestion: Smilin' Dan has got to go. That will free up a neat quarter of a million dollars.

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Blogger Eric said...

>We were promised improved fare collection with the CharlieCard system that dramatically slows things up on the Green Line and buses.

Um, what? Have you ridden a bus or Green Line trolley lately? CharlieCard boardings are orders of magnitude faster than anything else, and faster even than the old swipe cards. CharlieTicket boardings are indeed way too slow, and a net slowdown from the older version.

Cash transactions do suck much worse, and are even slower with the new farebox...but maybe, just maybe that's intentional. Who could believe that the T wants you to move your money onto the CharlieCard system, where they get the skim on the unused portion (at least until it's used; some fraction never will be). Nah. They wouldn't want that.

July 09, 2008 10:20 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Yes I have and I may be guilty in using the wrong word -- slows -- as opposed to a phrase like "leaks fares."

While the Card is faster, it doesn't really matter how fast it is when trains open all doors in rush hours in both directions on the street and people can board without paying. That's a huge number of unpaid fares -- particularly along Comm. Ave.

And the poor decision-making in the Charlie Ticket and the infinitesimally small coin slots is also relevant to speed -- and fare collections. How many times have operators or drivers waived you or others through because the fare boxes weren't working and backing up the lines of people trying to pay?

The Cards are wonderful in underground stations that have an abundant supply of care readers. Elsewhere -- the Green Line surface routes and buses -- not so much.

July 09, 2008 7:09 PM  

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