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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 20, 2013

Fares most foul

The MBTA needs legislative action in three weeks or else fares will rise and service will fall. Given that lawmakers move as quickly as the Green Line is rush hour, brace yourself for a collision.

Despite annual promises of change, the slow speed shuffle continues on Beacon Hill with riders caught in the grinding wheels of a Legislature that has been in session for more than two months and has churned out exactly three laws -- one of them calling for the special Senate election.

The first two months of the legislative session are an exercise in gridlock, much the same as Boston traffic. Lawmakers are more focused in finding their office than on substance and committees don't usually get around to holding hearings on bills until spring.

That's especially true of things more substantive than land-taking and sick bank adjustments. You know things like a major transportation proposal from Deval Patrick two months ago that includes income tax hikes and sale tax cuts.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have made the rounds saying we need to deal with the transportation issue and something will most certainly emerge from the General Court this year.

And in the meantime, trains and buses don't run on time, break down in bad weather and generally send commuters into rage.

Oh, and the Legislature's schedule doesn't even come close to the one the MBTA has to put a budget in place.

That means new general manager Beverly Scott in the same place as her predecessor, staring down a $140 million deficit (because lawmakers didn't do a permanent fix last year) and threatening more fare hikes and service cuts without the influx.
“I’m praying it’s a timing and figuring-it-out issue,” Scott said.
You might as well try prayer because nothing else has worked so far to get lawmakers to deal with a yawning annual gap they helped create when the stuck the MBTA with paying some of the bonds from the Big Dig boondoggle.

The good news, if there is any, is that the MBTA isn't looking to close the gap with massive service cuts. The bad news is they are looking for another major fare increase -- on top of the 23 percent jump that went into place last July.

The silly news? T officials say they will roll back the increase when and if lawmakers act.

The Legislature has been talking about dealing with a transportation package to deal with the MBTA as well as the crumbling highway and bridge system for years. There has been a decided lack of backbone in addressing the reality the improvements will require serious spending.

Lawmakers have been happy to let the users of public transportation pay increasingly higher fares for increasingly bad service while letting highway users off the hook by not hiking a gasoline tax last raised in 1991.

That's simply not fare.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fine, hike the gas tax, just make sure it's all spent on roads. Let's start a pay as you go approach. Why don't they try some innovation, have some deluxe trains which cost more but have amenities- larger seats- wi fi - advertising where the whole car is painted like the sponsor wants. A rolling silver bullet train for Coors.

March 20, 2013 4:18 PM  

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