MBTA fare hikes, service cuts coming



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Not outrageous

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Much as I hate to pay a stiff increase in T fares, it's comparable to what people pay in other cities. $80 for a monthly pass is already close to the going rate nearly everywhere in North America.

I do wish the T would allow unlimited riding for a single fare for a period of time, like many other systems. If you could ride for 90 minutes or 2 hours for one fare, it would encourage people to shop downtown while they're on the way home, or allow for round-trip grocery runs in the home neighborhood for one fare. You could also make bus-subway-bus connections which are sometimes shorter trips, rather than having to plan all your trips through downtown on the subway if you don't have a pass.

Not when

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Each line is breaking down once a week and the bus system is utterly unreliable.

Its so bad that most places of employment in the city don't even bother asking why you were late anymore.

Fee raises, cuts in service, and continued service problems? That's a far stretch for infrastructure that's visibly failing and crumbling in front of our eyes.

Go big or go home.

It's gotten so bad on the

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It's gotten so bad on the Green line in the mornings that I either:

• come to work 90 minutes early and hang around the neighborhood (library, shop, bar) until after evening rush hour or,
• come to work 90 minutes late and work until after evening rush hour.

Of course, I'm lucky enough to have tools at my disposal to make this possible (corporate devices). I'm hiring a new employee later this month, and will offer the same to her/him.

The T is just pointless stress that sets a bad tone for the day.

I really feel bad for people who work "front line" or customer service jobs and have traditional business hours.

Beats me, I don't own a car.

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Beats me, I don't own a car. Besides, don't you know that Cars and Highways are a RIGHT and not a product of government!?

Public transportation is only for big government, filthy, liberal, egg-head, commie, socialist, fascist, Nazis who live in lefty-leaning cities, stealing public tax dollars to go from their hotel maid jobs to the abortion clinic. We must end all subsidy for public transportation immediately.

We need more highways.


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What point are you trying to make? The cost of roads are paid for by gas taxes. Actually, the MBTA takes some of that too. Despite this, there's no subsidizing of my car or insurance payments by those who don't drive. In addition, drivers across the state are forced to subsidize transportation whose costs are primarily limited to the city where many do not live. What is fair about that?

Nobody is saying we shouldn't have transportation systems within the city, but it should be forced to pay its own way with the majority of costs paid for by those who utilize it. Additionally, most car-based commuters like me have to pay higher T ride fares anyway because a monthly pass does not make economic sense.

The sense of entitlement by daily MBTA riders astounds me sometimes.

Gas taxes are insufficient

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Every single state in the country receives more highway funds than they contribute in gas taxes.

Congress has contributed $30 billion to maintain highways since 2008, taken from general funds.

The Federal gas tax has not changed from the early 90s, it is a flat 18.4 cents per gallon. It is far too low to cover costs.

The situation at the state level is just as dire, if not more so.

The Finance Commission estimates that there is a funding gap of approximately $9 billion between what will be needed to bring the road and bridge system to a state of good repair and expected state and Federal funds.

Read the full report.

Ther ARE other taxes

And some of that goes towards roads, too.
An overhelming majority of the population own cars and use roads directly, so this is an acceptable use of general funds. Everybody uses roads indirectly.

That aside, I've always been a proponent of higher gas taxes - always. Add another buck. Unfortunately, it would be political suicide for anybody to propose such a large hike, though I'd like to see it, and I drive ~20k miles/year.

VMT for trucks, not cars

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For cars, it might address some problems. But it creates too many others, like creepiness. Just raise the gas tax instead.

Better yet, require only commercial vehicles to pay for VMT. Since commercial vehicles (trucks, buses) are already tracked by their operations, and they are not private passenger cars, it should be much easier and less objectionable to implement. Also, trucks and buses do the most damage to the roads, while passenger cars do relatively little.

This should be decoupled from efforts such as de-congestion pricing, which can be implemented separately using tolls.

GPS is creepy

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But why do they need GPS when many states track mileage at annual inspections? Or better yet require a long term balanced budget between the states and the feds for the funding they receive and let the states collect that money however they see fit.

GPS would be so drivers pay only for tax-designated routes

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cause you know that people will scream bloody murder otherwise - "I do all my driving on local/private/imaginary roads! Why should I have to pay the full tax?"

But I agree with you - it is creepy. I'm personally paranoid enough that with a system as described in that article, I would be concerned about potential abuse by overzealous authority and/or info-thieves.

But you know what else is creepy? The fact that most people today already don't mind having their daily activities tracked by banks, vendors, and even web sites like facebook (or UHub). Nor did the public at large put up much of a fuss when the Patriot Act et al, made it legal for the government to listen in on our phone conversations without warrants, and required cell-phone mftrs to make all new cell phones GPS trackable.

So I guess the whole "government shouldn't be able to watch us all the time" horse has already left the barn.

Of course

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But that's my point -- Gas taxes are insufficient. And yes, there is a wider benefit to having roads. I'm not opposed to using public funds for road projects, I'm opposed to people who pretend that we don't do that. Roads are not free, and they are heavily subsidized by state and federal governments. To claim otherwise is dishonest.

Arguably, it should be car owners who have the most interest in proper taxation. The damage done to the road is approximately proportional to axle load raised to the fourth power. That means trucks and buses do extreme amounts of damage to roads compared to passenger cars. Only a few states even care about truck weight, and none of them come close to recovering the costs proportionally. So, ordinary drivers are paying much of the costs of trucking.

Axle load

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Sure, check out http://pavementinteractive.org/index.php?title=ESAL

The AASHTO load equivalency equation is quite cumbersome and certainly not easy to remember. Therefore, as a rule-of-thumb, the damage caused by a particular load is roughly related to the load by a power of four (for reasonably strong pavement surfaces).


In 1986, the Road Test results were extended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to provide load-equivalence factors for tridem axles (AASHTO 1986). The load-equivalence factors vary sharply with weight, following roughly a fourth-power relationship.

Casual article:


I work, and learn for a living.

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You're an as ignorant as you are wrong.
I'm a 20 year old sophomore student from Maine both working my way through college in Boston, and working a full-time job. I most certainly Do NOT appriciate your sarcasm about the lower income community in boston.
I'm young, and like most young hard-working Americans,I have to burn my ass to get by day to day. It's difficult in this economy not only to be eligible to afford school, but to get a job.
I blame "egg heads" like you. Completely out of touch with your own community. You're a privileged Prick.

About that 128 drive...

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Consider this:

When I used to drive from my apartment in Brookline to my old job in East Boston, it took me 30 minutes (and cost me $5 in tolls for a 10 mile drive (only about 7 on the Pike)).

My new commute from Brookline to Waltham takes 30 minutes, and I pay $0 in tolls.

To take the T to East Boston used to take 55-58 minutes (including walk time, which has to be included for an apples to apples comparison), if nothing went wrong. Something went wrong at least 1 day per week.

To take the T up to Waltham would be at least an hour and 10 minute excursion.

I love good public transit. I hate bad public transit. We have the latter.

The lesson for me was:
For public transit to be a viable option for most people it must be (1) reliable, and (2) the overall trip time must be comparable to a driving (not the necessarily the same, but in the same ballpark). Unless the costs are wildly different (say, as $8 gas would make it or really high tolls would make it), those will be the only two considerations for most people (e.g., for many people, the avoidance of late charges for picking up a kid late from daycare would more than offset any increase in driving costs over public transit).

That 30 minute drive

And you don't

• come to work 90 minutes early and hang around the neighborhood (library, shop, bar) until after evening rush hour or,
• come to work 90 minutes late and work until after evening rush hour.

in order to make that drive just thirty minutes?

FWIW, I live in Boston and I'd like to see our public transportation improve. But imagining that a surface trolley will ever be immune to traffic is a bit silly.

Driving takes

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just as long, but at least it feels like you are doing something productive.

I commuted down RT2 before I first moved to Boston and took the red line into city. It was about 2 1/2 hours round trip commute.

I lived in Allson 5 miles away from my workplace after that, and it was 2 hours round trip most days (service issues, filled cars, delays, ect). Sometimes longer, rarely shorter. That was a 60-70% increase in rent for no addition time saved.

Moved to Southie and got it down to 1 & 1/2 most days. But being so close, that's the same average speed / mile time as walking. Yes, I'd be withing +/-10min by walking downtown vs taking the T fro southie.

I've since stopped buying a passes and walk 85% of the time, since there are no benefits to saved time on your commuting. I remember when living in Allson running from Packards corner to Kenmore and very easily beating the trolly and the 57 bus.

Most of the time the issue isn't even necessarily traffic, but the bunching up and inability of the T to manage it's scheduled. That leads to trains and buses getting overcrowded, and the overflow getting punted to the platforms, which then brings down the whole system that day.

You'll get three bunched up trains coming by packed to the brim because of previous issues, then not another for 20-30 min where the same issue happens.

Travel time

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I've found it takes about 25 minutes from Allston to Park Street once you get on a trolley. How did you get two hours?

door to door

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I regularly waited for 10-20 just to step on the trolly. 15-20 walking before/afterwards. That's 60 min one way right there if there are no delays.

I found even knowing when one was coming that you couldn't trust that it wouldn't be full. 1/2 the time it would, and you'd have to wait for the next.

That was Packards corner. I'm sure the irony is catching the B/C further up might actually be faster since you can actually get on a train before it gets too packed. But ultimately that's a service issue, compounded by the bunching up of trollys.

My commute times, first driving, and then walking are both door door. They're a lot less stressful, since it's more reliable and I'm no longer late.

Where in Allston?

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From Washington St to Park St on the B Line is about 40 minutes (travel time alone) when averaged out over a couple of weeks and at different times of day (primarily morning and evening commute).

I would record when I got on the train and then when I got off. It didn't seem to matter if it was in the morning or evening. I didn't include wait time at the stations because they seemed to be much more dependent on the hidden-to-public schedule (every 8 minutes, my ass...unless you're averaging over a few hours maybe) that the trains were running on.

The Green B line varies greatly depending on time of day

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From Washington St. on the B line to Government center, at 8:30am weekday, is at LEAST 45 minutes. I worked at 53 State Street (right on the other side of city hall, across from the T station for State St. in the historical building) and I allowed an hour to get to my desk from the Washington St. station back in Brighton.

And yes, from Washington St. to Packards Corner somehow takes 10 min. or more out of a roughly 35 minute trip to Copley (during rush hour and other times of the day). It's only a mile.

30 minutes at regular commuting times. Honest.

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No. You might be surprised because you're thinking I'm going from the Village or Coolidge Corner - I live on the west side of Cleveland Circle though.

I just go straight out Rt. 9 (heavy traffic, but moves) and up 128 (heavy but moves), or, if things sound particularly bad on 128, I drive through Newton and into Waltham that way. I get in at 9 and I usually don't leave until 7, but that doesn't matter - the Newton way is always 28-32 minutes even at 5.

As for public transit, I wish I could blame it on a surface trolley, but I live on the D-line, which for all intents and purposes operates like the subway in the above ground section.

gas tax

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The gas tax was last raised in 1991. It was not pegged to inflation, so basically it has only decreased since then. The MBTA has had about 5 increases since 1991. Now tell me again which form of transportation is subsidized?

If we're talking fare increases (and service cuts) then without a doubt user fees for drivers should be on the table as well (as opposed to being treated like pedophilia by the politicians).

Don't you know that Cars and

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Don't you know that Cars and Highways are a RIGHT and not a product of government!?

Public transportation is only for big government, filthy, liberal, egg-head, commie, socialist, fascist, Nazis who live in lefty-leaning cities, stealing public tax dollars to go from their hotel maid jobs to the abortion clinic. We must end all subsidy for public transportation immediately.



Service cuts are here already

They had a story in the NYT about rest areas across the country being closed due to state budget crisises. And the backup at the turnpike for cash customers is just crazy these days. That said I agree with the gist of your argument.

A rest area is not the

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A rest area is not the primary function of a highway. Having a closed rest area doesn't stop the cars from driving.

They serve as a safety measure

A lot of truckers and long distance travellers rely on them things for safety breaks and services for you car. If you read the article, you might reconsider that they aren't needed. It's same sort of issue where the politicians keep playing kick the can with the budget until needed services get cut.

This article states that the

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This article states that the fare could increase to as much as $3.25

Will these fare hikes come with improvements in service????

I just moved from Boston to New York. Here the standard fare is $2.25 and the train is a lot more reliable. How can the MBTA justify such a steep hike when services is, well, consistently inconsistent?

yes, AND....

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...just because no bitchfest on the T would be complete without it:
The price of that MTA fare includes service that runs all the time. The increase in fares for the T gets you a service that is falling apart during the hours that it is supposed to be running and then of course it does not run at precisely the moment that people really need it - closing time at bars. The fare increase will not help get the system to a state of good repair nor will it result in expanded service into those hours that are sorely needed.

Something beyond fares and service cuts needs to be done.

Boston, unlike NY, sleeps

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There's hardly any business for the T after 1 AM. There would be more at 4:30 AM. If they wanted to extend service an hour, that's where they should go. They tried Night Owl service in the early '00's. This article says it cost them $1.4 million a year to provide the service and they made $24,500 in cash fares. Is that really where you want your transit dollars going?

How much

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Does drunk driving cost the taxpayers?

Police, EMT's, property damage, court fees and costs to the taxpayer?

Also, if running 6-7 total buses for night owl service was costing the MBTA 1.5 million, we have BIG problems.

You're totally right, but

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You're totally right, but night service isn't the first thing that comes to mind for me. I'm merely talking about standards of basic service:
1.) Having trains that come at regular intervals during peak hours.

2.) Communicating effectively with passengers when there is a major delay. (Esp. on a train you're currently riding)


4.)Planned service slow down for maintenance at off-peak hours.

It's a travesty

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Before talking about any fare hikes, the debt from the Big Dig mitigation projects must be removed from the MBTA's back.

The State promised to pay for transit projects to mitigate the pollution from the Big Dig. Then they turned around and dumped that debt on the MBTA.

It's like saying that I would treat you to dinner, and then when the check arrives, I ask for your credit card to pay for the meal.

Yes Matthew, Yes Its the big

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Yes Matthew, Yes

Its the big dig's fault. There was NO WAY the MBTA could handle the big dig's debt and the pols knew this!

Before talking about any fare hikes, the debt from the Big Dig mitigation projects must be removed from the MBTA's back.

The State promised to pay for transit projects to mitigate the pollution from the Big Dig. Then they turned around and dumped that debt on the MBTA.

It's like saying that I would treat you to dinner, and then when the check arrives, I ask for your credit card to pay for the meal.

Get a Charlie Card

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With a Charlie Card, according to that article your proposed fare would be $2.35. I don't understand why anyone except the most casual tourist uses Charlie Tickets.

Have you ever considered the

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Have you ever considered the fact that MBTA unions are so strong and can extort such high pay and benefits in addition to Boston having way less ridership and not having raised fares as it should have historically have contributed to said terrible service?

The T is broke, and its not going to be fixed without the money. Where else can it come from besides those who use it? You can't fix the problems without fixing the revenue issue.

I can deal with a fair hike

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I already pay 89 dollars for the express bus pass, worst case scenario is that I have to stop taking it every day and take the regular bus. Fine. But if they cut service, I'm getting a car. Service levels suck enormous ass already, I don't see how much more they can reasonably cut. The Orange Line is packed going outbound straight until 11pm. On nights I get out of work early, I take it outbound to Roxbury Crossing at least before I can get a seat back inbound. And I need those last buses, and if I no longer have a semi-reliable way home with a variety of buses that go within 15-20 minutes of my house and the last Orange Line train, because I work nights, I'll have no choice but to get a car. I'm worried because that service will surely take a hit.

"Orange Line is packed until 11 PM" not

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I ride the Orange Line southbound from Downtown Crossing every night between 7 and 8:30 PM and I never, ever, ever have to stand. Walk down to the first few cars and you will have plenty of room.

Try going North

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Packed and SRO until about 11am, Hard to get a seat until at least 9pm some nights.



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Was referring to Northbound. Only take it South to get a seat.

Melts in water

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Yesterday afternoon during rush hour a 2 train car pulled into the Prudential stop with the first car empty, but the second car taking on passengers (such as it could, considering that the E line is always beyond capacity at Prudential during rush hour...). I knocked on the door of the first car and was told that it had been taken out of service because "it's leaking".

We're in big trouble if they actually take out all leaking trains. Being rained on inside a car is far from an usual experience. This is New England; it rains.

I'll be happy to buy the MBTA a roll of duct-tape.

And of course the driver trotted out that old canard; "There is another train right behind us". They do understand that we are on to them, and simply assume they are lying to us, right? Sure enough, "right behind" in this case meant 10 minutes later, and far to full to take on any more passengers.

I used to be in favor of the extentions currently planned, but they simply cannot run the system they currentlyhave. As a paying customer, I find it very insulting for management to be discussing new service in Somervile while they cannot do something as simple as keep the cars from leaking to the point that they need to be taken out of service.

"Right behind us"

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usually gets met with a "No shit, you guys run on TRACKS" from me.

Funny thing is, even the BMTA has trouble keeping track of trains in their system. Unless they're kept in constant radio / voice contact with the driver, they have no idea where they are in the system.

It's horribly inefficient and downright dangerous should something effect the whole system. Dispatch could easily be overwhelmed if there was say a chemical attack underground.

There's no Green Line transponders

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Once you get on the branch lines. Take the tour at High Street, it's neat. All trains on the branches get listed on the big screen, but they don't know exactly where they are. Primitive, and they said there's no plans to fix it.

I might have a picture, I'll try to dig it up later.

I was there with you

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It was a 5:17 at the Pru. Car 3604B, female driver, snippy.

There was a little water on the floor, no more than when people are carrying umbrellas on a rainy day. I wonder if the driver realized that now that the train was in a tunnel, that the chance, though not absolute, would be a minimal amount of water leaking in from the Opera Place incline forward.

Hate to harken back to the ye olden days, but why is nearly every operator making outrageous statements over the intercom or allowing a slight breakdown inconvenience an entire station happen to be 250lbs, female, and look like they just finished up a shift at Dunkin Donuts? My dad wore brylcream in his hair and a tie when he drove for the T.

Owing to my business pattern I take the Subway sparingly. The last time I took the Green Line the driver threatened "to stay here all night" and not close the doors at Prudential until everyone moved into the train behind the white line. Thanks Mom. We got it. Clam up and drive the trolley. The system has been moving since 1897 and will keep moving if you allow it to just go.


Why don't they look at ways

Why don't they look at ways to save money *without* cutting service?

For example, fix the software that's making millions of CharlieCards expire. The T pays about a dollar for each card, and now *everyone* has to replace their cards for no reason.

And there has to be a way to build the Green Line Extension for less money. A billion dollars for 5 miles of track and 7 new stations is out of control.

"Why don't they look at ways

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"Why don't they look at ways to save money *without* cutting service?"

That would involve battling the MBTA's multiple unions over work and staffing rules on a scale much larger than the recent concessions, in addition to taking on the top heavy legal and management departments filled with patronage hires. In other words, good luck kicking that hornets nest and surviving the fallout.

Considering the cost

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No, that would entail turning this group of public employees into wage slaves with zero benefits in the same way that corporations have been doing to their own employees left and right in order to pump up profit lines.

Why not argue that the benefits they've been able to afford these employees should be the norm and the fact that the MBTA costs as little as it does to begin with in relation to those benefits shows that they've been able to do more with nothing than any other government agency in this state.

In other words, it's not a hornet's nest, it's a whipped dog and if you keep beating it you're going to kill it. Try giving it a few treats instead of another beating for once.

Is the MBTA a transit agency

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Is the MBTA a transit agency or a welfare program for those lucky enough to win the job lottery?

MBTA employees still grossly underfund their benefits and pensions compared to private sector workers. Their legal departments and management are overloaded with patronage hires that draw large salaries without contributing anything to the functioning of the agency.

Debt service is a huge problem for the MBTA, but so is dead weight sapping financial resources and taking up manpower which could be used productively elsewhere in the agency. Fire the deadwood, have current employees contribute a realistic share towards their benefits, and use the recuperated funds to hire more essential employees, drivers, and maintenance staff to get the system running on time!


Any change at all would make drivers into wage slaves with no benefit? The existing contract is perfect exactly the way it is?


What's your point?

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The point was that changes should be made to save enough money to prevent changes to service.

The point isn't that the contract is perfect, but that the kinds and sizes of changes that would be necessary to save enough money to keep service at the same levels would be exceptionally burdensome on the employees.

Furthermore, once the employees' contracts become the release valve for budgeting problems that had nothing to do with the contracts in the first place, that suddenly becomes the first or only option in future discussion on how to shed cost until there's absolutely nothing left to pick off that bone. We can see the math, the reality, of workers across the board being screwed compared to their 1950s counterparts of only 60 years ago. People have been required to do more for less annually REGARDLESS of the state of the economy. It's a red herring to look at the employee's contract as a source of saving because suddenly the agencies are strapped for cash. Mentally, as a state and as a nation, we need to start thinking about solutions that don't follow the retread path of the past 30 years of "fuck the worker".

hard work

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is hard.

That's the job we are supposed to be electing representation to do. Mumbles, Deval and the legislate meanwhile argues about their cash cow casinos... something of little economic importance.

Honestly, the MBTA needs to be fully funded by the legislature and at the same time needs to make some deep cut to cushy payroll and pensions. Servicing and paying off their debt is issue #1. #2 is labor issues.

Raise the retirement age, and lower the benefits. MBTA drivers should not be making 60K a year with the option to retire at 55. Especially since there's no evidence that system is attracting highly qualified candidates. Any smuck with a HS degree can apply.

If their union thinks so, their union needs to start putting resources towards making that argument for everybody. For all workers.

The protecting of their own has failed as the market reduced everyone elses wages and benefits. That's on the unions. Now it's high time they be exposed to the reality of financing in the 21st century.

Because you have no idea what you're talking about

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The MBTA spends the largest portion of its money on debt service (paying a loan) that was lumped onto it by the state as part of a well-meant, yet entirely uneconomically-based decision to make the MBTA pay for itself and reduce the state's Big Dig obligations at the same time.

They've "saved money" by refinancing that debt for the past 10 years (ever since the debt was given to them) but they've run out of financial magic to work on it now. The only way to save money now would be to cut service because they're running about the leanest government agency in all of MA.

Furthermore, the cost of the cards is miniscule compared to everything else surrounding them. The cards are set to expire as a means of keeping them up to date technologically. If I recall correctly, the replacement cards that you get will have a much longer shelf life because the technology won't be changing any time soon compared to what was used off the bat to get the system started.

As I understand, most of the cost of the GLX is to purchase the land it will go on. Land inside 128 isn't exactly the cheapest around.

GLX land

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The Green Line extension is being built in the pre-existing Lowell and Fitchburg commuter rail right-of-ways, which cuts that cost significantly. I think there are some issues regarding abutters and also space for a maintenance facility which must be addressed. Also the land around the stations.

If I'm interpreting the cost breakdown correctly, ALT 1 puts land acquisition per-mile costs at $12.8mil for the Medford branch and $6mil for Union Square. Not great, but not terrible either.

The big costs come from the over-engineered stations ($10mil a pop) and the aerial viaduct that connects to the relocated Lechmere station. It also counts the purchase of 23 vehicles at $3.3mil a pop. A huge rip-off, but that's what we get for not using off-the-shelf options.

Going back to re-read old convos

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I went back to where I thought I saw it mentioned that cost problems were due to land.

The cost of the land is what is significant in delaying the START of operations, not necessarily significant to the total cost of the project. Until they get all the land necessary, they can't spend any other money. They don't have enough budgetary leeway to buy up the land in one budget year.

So, I should have said "most of the IMMEDIATE cost is the land", not most of the cost. Of course, that's less relevant to the discussion then too.

Makes sense

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I guess that explains why they are now talking about a "staged" implementation, where they progressively build outward.

It's too late to prevent

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It's too late to prevent creating the existing debt (though the state could take it off the T's operating budget).

But the T continues to spend vast amounts of money on capital projects, many of them with little benefit to passengers. Every time the Board of Directors meets, the agenda includes hundreds of millions of dollars of new debt.

Meanwhile, they say they have to reduce service on the buses and trains which people actually ride, and raise fares which will hurt the poor and discourage discretionary ridership.

Never have I seen any officials stating they'll look into ways to run things more efficiently as an alternative to these projects.

For example, there's the project to build 7 more tracks at South Station. They just spent $32.5 million for environmental permitting and design. Did they look into ways to improve operations to run more trains on the existing tracks? I'm sure in Western Europe and Japan, a stub-end terminal can turn far more trains per hour than the current practice at South Station.

"Discretionary Ridership"

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Now there's a concept worth exploring. You could define it a million different ways, however, I have to imagine that it has decreased over the past five years, notwithstanding the overall ridership increases.