If you thought the MBTA
has problems now just wait: the Legislature plans to investigate
the cause of this winter's delays and disruptions.
Yep, the Great and General Court plans to bring the focus of its Senate post audit and oversight and joint transportation committee onto the problems that have plagued the system this winter and come up with recommendations on how to fix them.
Here's a word to the wise: don't sit up on Beacon Hill and listen to bureaucrats offer apologies and excuses. Ride the system yourself.
Let's start with a basic question: how many lawmakers know what it costs to ride a bus or subway or commuter rail train -- or what it costs to park at an MBTA
After you figure that out, try to catch an early morning commuter rail from Franklin of Worcester, then jam into a Green Line or Red Line car to get to the Statehouse on time. Then do it again at night.
Experience the regular fires caused by a lack of maintenance, whether it involves track switches or dirty stations where the trash piles up. Or ride the overcrowded buses that always arrive in two and threes, followed by lengthy waits (which were often at unshoveled
stops this winter). Get irritated by a lack of adequate information about delays.
And then stop to think why you avoid public transportation on a regular basis, probably with the excuse offered by former T boss Dan Grabauskas
that the schedule wasn't convenient to his working hours.
After all that, it will become blatantly obvious. The system suffers from a lack of resources, largely because of sporadic legislative interest that follows benign neglect.
The commuter rail problems today are largely the result of an aging locomotive fleet
, a problem exacerbated two years ago when Grabauskas
delayed purchasing new engines because the system couldn't afford it. Track and station maintenance? Ditto.
A big part of the revenue problems stems from the Legislature's last "solution," earmarking a penny on the sales tax to pay for a system that previously had been "forward funded," meaning it could spend pretty much what it wanted and present an invoice to lawmakers.
Offered an opportunity to fix that two years ago, by raising the gasoline tax to fund the T as well as needed bridge and road repairs, lawmakers opted instead for adding 1.25 cents onto the sales tax, a move that has obviously proven inadequate to meet the increased needs caused by the Great Recession.
So here we are back again talking about problems on the T -- without the ways or means to fix them. Talk about a vicious circle.
Spare us the circus of hearings that will lead nowhere -- and about as quickly as a rush hour commute.
CORRECTION: Thanks to reader Karl C. who noted I got forward funding backward
Labels: Massachusetts Legislature, MBTA, transportation