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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, March 06, 2013

All's fare

It was as inevitable as the first crocuses -- or the last snowstorm. The MBTA is threatening fare hikes or service cuts without state aid.

And while new T general manager Beverly Scott may not like the suggestion the proposals for a 33 percent fare hike with no service cuts -- or a 15 percent jump coupled with steep reductions -- it's hard not to take the proposals as worst-case scenarios designed to jump start the legislative debate on Deval Patrick's massive transportation overhaul -- and tax hike.

There's no denying the T has fiscal problems -- a lot of it caused by the Legislature dumping the Big Dig debt into its lap. And it there is also little doubt that lawmakers are skeptical about Patrick's solution -- raising the income tax by a point, then cutting the sales tax but allocating every penny to transportation infrastructure, including the T.

But riders -- and others -- have every reason to be skeptical after last spring's fare hike theater, which included the same bad options and the same prediction of sharp drops in ridership, only to be followed by an increase in travelers.

Equally tiresome is the suggestion by conservative lawmakers that the T needs to focus on "low-hanging fruit" before coming to to Beacon Hill for more money. The almost daily breakdowns caused by a severe lack of maintenance is ample proof there are serious problems that need to be addressed.

Most of all, lawmakers need to address their own role in creating the annual rite of spring by saddling transit riders with the paying off $1.7 billion of the sins committed by highway builders gone wild.

It's time for all sides to get serious about solving the broad range of transportation problems -- from crumbling, overcrowded highways to crumbling, overcrowded subways and buses. And do it in a fair and rational way that doesn't kick the can down the road.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just think, this is the 'T' that promoters want to move millions of visitors around Boston for their Olympic spectacular.

March 06, 2013 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On June 13, 2012 the Massachusetts House voted for the so-called “MBTA bailout bill” a package providing for a one-time transfer of $49 million from the revenue generated from motor vehicle inspections to the MBTA and $3.5 million to regional transit authorities. The money would be used, along with recently approved 23 percent average fare hikes and service cuts, to close the deficit in the MBTA’s $1.7 billion budget. Supporters said it is essential to close this budget gap in order for the T to continue to operate without raising even more fares and making more service cuts.

The T is the nation’s fifth-largest system but has the highest debt burden of any U.S. transit agency. Had legislators been paying attention, they would have been aware of a June 2012 report from the Refund Transit Coalition called Riding the Gravy Train – How Wall Street Is Bankrupting Our Public Transit Agencies by Profiteering Off of Toxic Swap Deals.

The report concentrated on local transit systems and some of its numbers are stunning. Wall Street banks have swooped in to take advantage of a financially desperate transit agency—and its riders—by roping the T into risky interest rate swap deals. The study found that the T is losing about $26 million a year on five toxic swaps still outstanding with Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and UBS and suggested that the MBTA will “lose another $254 million on these swaps” before they lapse. The study added that the MBTA was losing money on swaps even before the crisis, with total losses running in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars.

March 06, 2013 9:29 AM  
Blogger Mark B. said...

"Conservative lawmakers..."


March 06, 2013 1:20 PM  

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