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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Your money or your livelihood

Well, you certainly can't say MBTA boss Dan Grabauskas is subtle.

Smilin' Dan told Globe editors and reporters that eastern Massachusetts commuters who rely on the public transportation system are the pawns in his bid to find the needed cash to make his system run.

State bailout or fare increase, and:
"If you don't want to cut service, it's going to have to be hefty"
I've been semi-sympathetic to the bind the T was placed in by the Legislature when it gave it a penny on the sales tax to forward fund operations -- while saddling it with lots of debt.

But, I'm not at all sympathetic to the quality of service under a Grabauskas-"managed" system.

The timing of the threat is especially interesting -- right after lawmakers started to address the mismanagement at the Mass. Turnpike Authority caused by another legislative scheme that saddled the Big Dig costs on a highway system that thought it was good politics to eliminate tolls on most of its users.

Smilin' Dan's threats come as the system is experiencing major increases in ridership caused by soaring gasoline prices -- the perfect time, in his mind, for a blackmail threat like this.

And funny, there is no mention of the quid pro quo that must be demanded in exchange -- cleaning up the T's house -- right at the top.

This is a system that has yet to really offer a full accounting of the results of the last fare increase more than a year and a half ago. It is a system that overextended itself with capital projects that are chronically behind schedule and over budget -- just on the Green Line alone! Every rider has a horror story or two to share of miserable customer service and commuting nightmares.

Smilin' Dan is correct that lawmakers that helped create at least part of the problem must be part of the solution. But holding riders as hostages is not the way for a man who has pretty much failed in delivering quality, dependable service -- and who continues to telegraph his own beliefs on service quality by using a T-owned SUV as his way of commuting.

Any T bailout legislation must include one simple fact: Smilin' Dan has got to go.

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Anonymous Conrad Halling said...

If gas prices continue to stay high, the T is going to be overwhelmed by new riders. Service will decline since the T doesn't have the resources to add more trains, subway cars, or buses. Something has to be done to provide more money so the T can improve. If the legislature won't help, then the only choices are to cut service or raise fares. I think the message is appropriate at this time.

August 05, 2008 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good day.
Another issue that should be looked at is MBTA's agreement with the union, that I feel provides excessive and very costly benefits to their employees. I am a supporter of unions, but i don't think that MBTA employees are somehow economically exploited, work excessive hours for slave wages, and haven't got access to health care. At a time of financial crisis, everyone has to make sacrifices, including the unions!

August 05, 2008 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MBTA employees have obtained those benefits through collective bargaining and have not received a real wage increase in years. Don’t forget a few years of Zero percent’s. Those who attack public employees are either Republicans; believe everyone should have the Wal-Mart Benefit Package while they enjoy the CEO Package. The way to bring people up is to increase wages and benefits not cut we are not in a race to bring back the 80 hour work week and the company store and housing. The current GM should be let go. The T Green Line, Red Line, Orange Line and Blue Line should be expanded. If the state does not kick in its share after the big dig transfer of obligations for commuter rail then the alternative are a fair increases, deep reduction in services or raising the assessments to city and towns or some combination of them. One solution would be a temporary increase in the income tax to pay down the debt and restore the T’s financial picture so that fare revenue comes much closer to its expenses. This could be called the Romney Tax as every one see the shape he left the bridges ,dams and roads in while he spent four years running for President though the temporary tax need not be in place for four years.

August 05, 2008 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...blaming this on Romney? How about a (my life-long) democratic legislature, with speakers of the house who have more power than a governor? I ride the commuter rail and subway to work every day; I have no complaints in service, but I cannot afford to pay any more. My commuter rail T-pass has DOUBLED since 1999. But, oh, that's right, it's the democratic legislature looking our for me, the little guy. If that were true, it would bail out the T so there will be no increase and more burden on their voter-base, i.e., the "common" people. GIVE ME A BREAK.

August 06, 2008 10:13 AM  

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