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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, February 13, 2009

Playing budget politics

The Patrick administration continues the political roll-out of its long overdue transportation plan -- and is looking to hold MBTA riders as hostages in the quest for higher gasoline taxes.

Just a couple of days after launching a trial balloon about a 29-cent gasoline tax hike -- to a virtual unanimous round of hostility -- Transportation Secretary James Aloisi was back yesterday with Step 2: Nightmare on the T.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will have to increase public transit fares by as much as 25 percent, severely cut back services, or lay off employees unless the agency can figure out how to pay down the agency's crushing debt, the state's top transportation official warned yesterday.

"If we don't get help by June, we're likely to make the cuts," Aloisi said at a meeting yesterday with the MBTA board. "The damage will be significant."

How could we tell?

I have to believe there is room for a lot of trimming at the T -- starting with Smilin' Dan's salary and SUV.

And I'm certain I won't miss the "service ambassadors" who speed my ride by standing at the stop so they can register my Charlie Card and speed up Green Line boarding through all doors. How can you miss what you don't see?

There's no denying the T is in tough financial straits because of massive debt dumped on it by the Legislature. And the pension padding that afflicts much of state government is especially problematic at the T, a patronage haven for as long as I can remember.

But as Smilin' Dan loves to tells us monthly, ridership is way up.

So maybe threats of fare hikes and service cuts are designed to get people back into their cars and allow the state to collect more for the gas tax?

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Blogger Chris Rich said...

Well it looks like the Fed stimulus package includes a very fat taste for Amtrak and public transit so maybe T's chestnuts will leave the fire through 'divine provenance' from above.

But the thing desperately needs a makeover as it is all about Boston. You can go directly from Concord to Boston but there is no way to go directly from Concord to Burlington or Framingham as if it were a wheel without a rim.

The role of the bus is undervalued in all of this and yet there are far more commuters going to and from work in the vast and populated outer reaches than there are Boston based commuters.

The gas tax is the best way to offset this cohort of car commuters in order to give them an alternative and levy their share for road damage and congestion.

And a bus does not need expensive infrastructure, you just design routes on the existing road grid.

Seattle has been using it effectively for decades and it is a great system.

A friend of mine, by the way, just checked the proposed April commuter rail schedule and it has been severely curtailed. There goes your 'ridership' Mr Grabauskas.

I say, make him move to Middleton and do a second shift commute to Framingham for a year with no car as a 'training exercise'.

February 13, 2009 2:26 PM  

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