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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, February 14, 2012

Can you hear them now?

MBTA officials have unleashed a tsunami. State leaders had better be listening or they will be swept up by the wave.

It's almost unheard of -- standing room only at public hearings. Yet that's what is happening at location after location across eastern Massachusetts as transit officials bring their proposal for fare hikes and service cuts out for a test drive.

And now the spotlight is being turned onto the ways the transit authority spends its money, particularly the more than 600 people raking in $100,000 or more annually.

The plight of the T was not addressed in Deval Patrick's State of the State address. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has been outspoken on the fate of workers at Suffolk Downs and Wonderland, has been far less vocal about riders who board the Blue Line at the stations that serve those tracks.
“Right now, I feel like a solution is really a T issue rather than a legislative issue … I would like to see the hearing process go forward and they will present their findings and then (we) will comment on them.”
Senate President Therese Murray acknowledges the obvious, while remaining silent about solutions.
“Everyone knows there’s got to be a fix on the transportation funding.”
With gasoline prices rising again, lawmakers view a fuel tax hike as even more deadly than the T's third rails. But their options are limited.

State transportation officials know they are playing with fire in generating a worst-case scenario of 35 percent higher fares coupled with elimination of weekend commuter rail service. Maybe they think the extra revenue generated by riders getting back in their cars will help ease the crunch.

But they ignore, at their own peril, the fate of people who don't have that option:
“How much do you expect the poor to pay?’’ said Jane D’Angelo, 47, during a public hearing hosted by the MBTA on the proposed changes at the Boston Public Library’s central library in Copley Square.
Frankly, I don't think Transportation Secretary Richard Davey is ignoring them: he is playing them like a violin, orchestrating the furor into a crescendo that will force Patrick and lawmakers to act.

And probably annoy everyone outside the MBTA district already fuming about Big Dig costs. But the fate of the capital city's economy is important to the quality of life in Worcester, Pittsfield and Harwich.

Lawmakers really have no one to blame but themselves for this predicament. And the wiggle room is rapidly disappearing. At hearing after hearing the public is making itself heard loud and urgently.

A reasonable fare hike, judicious trimming of costs like salaries and a search for every available penny of non-fare revenue are part of the solution. But there needs to be an answer, once and for all, to the chronic problems that don't defy solutions, but just require political will.

The public hearings make clear this is not an issue going away anytime soon. As much as elected officials may wish that to happen.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happens east of 128 isn't as important to me as you might think.

February 14, 2012 6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone west of 128 that thinks the state could survive without Boston is a fool!

February 14, 2012 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on your definition of survive, I prefer to look at it based on cost/benefit analysis. I may be a fool but the less I have to do with Boston the better off I am. 600 people making 100,000+, and my taxes should go up to help subsidize that? I wouldn't call anyone a fool who lives in Boston, I know some and I wouldn't trade my house and situation for theirs, I just don't want to be saddled with their bills.

February 14, 2012 8:48 AM  
Blogger Hank Layfield said...

First and third Anons are fools. Metro Boston contributes far more to the state general fund than it receives back. Those of us who ride the MBTA are subsidizing the folks out West. We are asking that a bit of that subsidy be reduced to fund our own transportation needs.

February 14, 2012 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess we should extend the well run MBTA to all corners of the state then, add the polka dot line running from Northampton to Boston and we'll be awash in excess funds. Or don't worry about it close the T and stop subsidizing me out west here and teach me a lesson. I live on a dirt road, have my own well, no public trash pick-up, and you're subsidizing me?

February 14, 2012 12:00 PM  
Blogger Hank Layfield said...

Yes, we're subsidizing you. Does your dirt road connect to a paved one? Do you live in a town that receives local assistance from the state? Did you know that such assistance funds police and fire services? You are not an island unto yourself, no matter how much you might think you are.

Different parts of the state have different needs. It's okay to fund your needs and mine, we are in this together.

February 14, 2012 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think your water bills pay for all the costs associated with the Quabbin and Wachusett resevoir? The inability of towns around those bodies of water to develop (to save your water from contmination) and develop their tax base counts. We pay enough now for what we get.

February 14, 2012 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you think your water bills pay for all the costs associated with the Quabbin and Wachusett resevoir? "

You drink from them too. And more imporantly, in terms of dollars going in, dollars going out, you're getting more than you're putting in, because rural infrastructure costs more. Easier to take care of us who live in the rabbit warrens. Fewer miles of road. Fewer acres for emergency services to cover. It adds up.

February 14, 2012 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said, I have a well. As a matter of fact most towns around them were prohibited from hooking up to those bodies of water, had to save them for Boston. I'd love to see a breakdown of actual costs per person and would be more than happy to only take what I pay for and if that means risking my health (we have mostly volunteer firefighters) so be it. I sure never use the MBTA.

February 14, 2012 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of you need to remember that commuter rail service extends beyond 128 in several different directions, and the MBTA is proposing to cut it and raise those fares. Apparently enough people cared about this in Worcester to attend a loud public hearing there, 50 miles from Boston.

February 14, 2012 11:01 PM  

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