Wicked Local Newton reports on the first MBTA meeting with riders. The Globe was there as well.
Students Against T Cuts was there live tweeting the event.... and I was really touched by the emotion and the energy that the disabled advocacy community brought into the room. Clearly, these proposals have far-reaching consequences that will affect a whole lot of people - and be even more a burden for a specific demographic: the blind. It was incredible to hear how the Carroll Center for the Blind is able to work with these individuals and teach them to operate as independent human beings, and then, how these cuts have the potential to shatter all that. StudentsAgainstTCuts.org
Caitlin Ducharme tweets:
20 minutes red line delays while I read about #MBTA service cuts and fare hikes. Get a clue MBTA, you are so pathetically mismanaged.
it was a five minute delay MAXIMUM. the constant whining around here is so pathetic
Even the email alert said 15-20 minute delays.
They *always* say that... *always*
I've never seen it say anything else. Its like a standard message.
i've gotten emails that say 5-10 mins delay, 10-15, 15-20 etc. Most common is 10-15 by far, but I've seen alerts declaring longer delays.
The story we will be reading in the Globe (and have been actually) is how we have had no fare increases in donkey's years and how people have to start paying for the services they receive, yadda yadda yadda.
Well, given that nearly all of what we pay in fares goes to debt payments and maintaining the system in a state of good repair has not been prioritized by our legislators and Governors for oh...about 20 years now (hence all these breakdowns), they should be paying us to ride the damned thing!
The MBTA's situation is asinine and there is no way that it can be solved through actions available to the MBTA. This has to be solved at a big picture level -- i.e., MassDOT looking at our entire transportation system (not just the MBTA and not just metro Boston) and figuring out a solution that works for our entire state's economy, population and environment.
And if that means looking at the gas tax (that has not been raised since '91 and has lost gobs of value since it was never tied to inflation) among other revenue solutions, then tough shit Howie.
But do our legislators have the sack to look down the road and do this (what does Patrick care? he's outta here...)....perchance to dream...
That's a nonsensical tweet.
MBTA: "We can't to maintenance because we have no money"
users: "We wont' give you more money until you do maintenance"
I read a lot about people telling the MBTA how much service sucks. Has anyone actually presented them with "valuable" input on how to improve? I'm not talking about just walking into a meeting and making a short statement. I'm talking about telling the MBTA what's wrong, and how they might go about fixing it. It just seems to me like a lot of finger pointing, and not many solutions.
I am not a civil engineer, or an economist, or a transportation expert. The Commonwealth supposedly hires people who are these things. Why is it my job to tell them how to fix things? Why are we paying these people if they have to rely on me to tell them how to make their system work?
A civil engineer can tell our government what the right thing to do is.
But it takes constituent pressure to make them do it.
You're not a civil engineer, economist or transportation expert. You do have input though. Without it, how is the transportation expert supposed to tell the civil engineer where to build, and have the economist tell them how much rides must cost in order to turn a profit?
Saying something such as "Why is it my job?" doesn't help move a situation forward. I've had colleagues in the past who have asked this question. We held the door for them when they were laid off. I also had colleagues who asked how they can be part of a solution, and offered up ideas. They were rewarded with yearly raises and bonuses.
It doesn't matter if you don't have a specialization in a given area, such as the three you mentioned. Not all creative people have advanced degrees.
Here's a polite and professional letter (posted on my blog) proposing re-extending Green Line D service to Lechmere to help out the E Line:
For those not familiar, you can read all about how, for a while, the D Line used to also run all the way to Lechmere here:
And this wasn't coming from a (undergraduate) college student--this was coming from somebody who's been riding the E Line since today's students were even born.
The "D" will be extended all the way through Somerville when the GLX is built. So, optimistically, by 2050 you'll see more service at (new) Lechmere.
I'm gonna hold you to that.
First - as a city resident I like the T and use it all the time - and I agree that it should be properly funded.
BUT - if you are going to come in and say "pay for this" you have to also come in and say I'm willing to do without that. Unless they raise taxes on something - without lowering them on something else, that's the only way to pay for this stuff. I agree - fund the T better and relieve it of the debt burden. Bottle redemptions, Gas tax - maybe but can't imagine that's going to go very far even if you could get it through the legislature.
So what I want to hear is what are people willing to cut to save the T services and keep fares low. and I will have to be a pretty big ticket item like aid to cities and towns.
Again, why is there a problem? Because the State took money that was supposed to be spent as part of mitigations to a giant highway project and dumped them on a transit system. That's why.
Don't pull the "blaghblabber T projects blah" either, because the feds fully intended this to be PART OF THE HIGHWAY PROJECT - a project that got so overspent that the state then tried to decide that it could just forget about the transit enhancements it agreed to as part of getting FEDERAL money.
This should be paid for by highway users. Period. Highway and roadway travel is subsidized far more than transit. Transit users should not be paying for anything big dig, particularly when the state did such a shit management job that overruns were extreme, uncollected, and pissed off the Feds.
They MUST prioritize raising fares over cutting service. Also, the legislature needs to step in as well (don't hold your breath). I don't think people with cars understand how vital the MBTA is to so many people, beyond the fact that these cuts are non-sensical. Scenario 2 would end ALL service to Salem Street and Main Street in Malden, and Main Street in Everett. If you are unfamiliar with the area, they are quite poor, and buses are packed all day. The T needs to stop building things like Greenbush and South Coast Rail and instead maintain and (god forbid) improve services that people actually use every day. Hell, if it wasn't for the big dig mandate, I think the Green Line extension should definitely be dropped as well.
Tell the banks and hedge funds they'll have to wait another 30 or 40 years to get repaid.
Do that and the banks will never lend the MBTA a dime again.
The state needs to pay off its debts in a timely fashion like any private individual would. If the state actually cared and wasn't ultimately going to dump the responsibility on the backs of taxpayers, the casino revenue would be specifically purposed for paying off debt service. However the little prices in power at the statehouse want to build an expanded patronage empire with that cash, and have no willingness to part with pet projects, staff, or perks, so we can all expect a bill in the mail.
Occasionally, when I'm at the store I see little children sitting on the floor, refusing to get up. It never seems to get them what they want, but no doubt they get something out of it.
Argentina certainly got something out of telling the banks to go take an airborne intercourse at a tumbling cruller. It's all by consensus - all it takes is enough people to tell the Emperor that his schlong is showing for the whole house of cards to come pooping down.
People keep saying that western MA will balk. Is that really that big of a deal? The gas tax hike could be as much little as five cents and have a huge impact. Ten cents and it would be massive. It seems to me that people think unequivocally that the gas prices in MA are colossal, but they're actually quite reasonable here, very low compared to CA/NY and most other metro areas.
Legislators need to man up and properly communicate to their residents how increased transit use benefits them. This whole "What's in it for me?" attitude is the source of so many problems in the US and a little honesty and realism would go a long way to pacifying these people.
It doesn't even have to be a statewide thing. I know the MBTA already collects a proportional charge from the cities where it serves, but why can't the gas tax be enacted only within 495? Then the folks out west don't complain (as much), we push more cars off the road, and get the revenue the T needs.
You are right - I didn't think it would be a very big number - but a dime on the gas tax is about $250 million according to a NYT article I found from when they were discussing in 2009. I'm fine with that - but I think then we need a debate over whether it's a good thing to take $250 million net out of the economy for the public sector or if this should be netted out elsewhere (like bringing the sales tax back down).
Personally I think what we should do is charge the dime and take the big dig burden off the T - use the gas tax to pay that down.
It's time to stop hiding the externalities and stop with the screwy accounting. The MBTA shouldn't be burdened with the big dig debt. Western MA also needs to be shown exactly how much it costs to keep it's roads up, and how much more sparse it would look out there with tax dollars from the 617. We're a commonwealth, we need to act like it.
While we're at it can we please get rid of tolls on the Pike that now only serve to pay it's workers?
Keep one on the border to NY, and possibly increase the tolls into Boston to pay off the damn tunnels!
They pay for road maintenance too, normally. Why remove them?
Maybe they're income tacks!"
Gas tax definitely has to be part of the solution, but not just raise the tax and give it to the T (doubt anyone really would propose that here). People need to get down into the wonk of it all and find a solution that not only rescues the MBTA, but also does something for the people in the western part of the state, people who don't use the T, people who drive, bike, walk, crawl on their tongue - whatever. There needs to be a TRANSPORTATION solution that doesn't turn to shit in 10 years.
OpEd in the Herald today makes the case for incorporating future MAINTENANCE into the cost of future expansion projects, which is a nice start. We'd like to have people pointing to Massachusetts in the future as a model of how to do it, as opposed to places like Portland or Amsterdam or something.
Of course this will require our legislature to think beyond the election cycle....which is due to hit in about .....ugh.
Initially I retched at your proposal because it had echoes of the forward funding crisis that's hitting the USPS right now. But then I realized that it may not actually be that bad, provided the money is protected and doesn't just get stolen later by some legislator with a pet project or a sudden need to lower taxes on his constituency.
The state absolutely would save plenty of money in the long run by properly maintaining these systems, but that money needs to somehow be kept in escrow so that it can't be snatched away to fix a short-term crisis.
If the state were serious about the Blue Line extension, for example, and the options are 100/400/650, boosting those figures by 20% to cover maintenance expenses isn't going to immediately break the bank.
But nobody who has the power to do anything about it wants to look at it and deal with it. Therefore it seems like "well, where's this money going to come from!?".
The MBTA is cash-strapped due to about a $500 million dollar bill due on its debt this year (debt that was originally the state's to deal with).
The state of MA has a budget of over $30 billion (with a B). If the state took the debt back, the MBTA would instantly have $500 million more to do what it needed to do without altering its revenue situation AT ALL. It would be as if you had DOUBLED every fare in the system (2011 fare revenue was about $400 million). Meanwhile the state would be charged with finding only about 1.5% extra of its total budget in order to pay the debt obligations without altering the debt's structure AT ALL (something the state would have a lot better access to do than the MBTA does).
The state paid only $2 billion of its $30 billion budget to its own debt service last year. The MBTA is paying $500 million of its $1.5 billion budget to debt service. This is a total no-brainer and the State House should know it.
Surround them and don't let anyone who drives get in or out of the area. Make it clear that we are pissed off and not going to put up with the massive economic downturn that will result from gutting the public transit for a huge percentage of the state economy's businesses.
Perhaps we should kidnap them all and dump them in Detroit and make them find their way out on foot. Because that's the end goal of this stupidity - make Boston into Detroit.
a) why did they do it this way and
b) is part of it that the MBTA was seen as a patronage haven where people got great benefits and this was done to force them to be more efficient - if we give them the relief - will they really do something productive with it or will they revert to bad habits.
I like the service and I'm perfectly willing to adequately fund them. What is the background to why the legislature wants to pound them into the ground?
But gas users have been hit pretty hard with gas prices recently as well. If you are going to raise the tax now, then it should be lowered later on when the prices drop (it probably should be the opposite).
And prices have to go up a little. Meet in the middle somewhere.
Gas prices here are pretty reasonable (I drive to NY to see family regularly and I always try to fill up here rather than NY and CT whenever possible). Fishy seems to be keen on a COL or some inflation based increase for T fares - but the tax is a fixed amount - I think about 22 cents - since 1991 or 1993 - which at the time was probably a 20% tax. The equivalent now would be about 70 cents - the state would be swimming in money if we did this on a percentage basis like other consumption taxes. I think a dime is reasonable - but again - that's just to a) bring the rate up to a more reasonable level and b) align it more as a user fee and a deterrent to using gas powered cars putting the money to the T so it can run on time.
I know there are a lot of very good counterarguments - but after hearing them I've come down on the side of marginally higher gas taxes make sense, even now. However, it might also make sense to roll back other taxes, especially the sales tax. If the elderly and the poor have to take the T and it's not a choice this a)can provide them with a better service essential to them and b) lowers their expenses on other things they may need to buy, although most necessities are already exempt. I'm all for aligning revenues as user fees where reasonable, but I'm not sure I want to just put more sand in the sandbox for Beacon Hill.
in the gas tax is approximately a 3% price increase to a driver. Seems to me that's far more equitable than socking MBTA users with a 35% to 45% fare increase AND severely reduced service.
For gas? That would be the rate I would use. I'm estimating that the person who needs a pickup truck for work is probably paying 2.5K-4.5K a year in gas, and your average commuter is paying 1K-2K a year at the very least.
How much is that person who is using the roadways so heavily actually paying for the use and upkeep of those roads?
Moreover, the T was hit with costs that were supposed to be paid for by the Big Dig. How much does that driver pay for that?
Average household drives say 25,000 miles per year - 25 mpg - that's 1000 gallons or $100 - maybe a little more depending on commuting distance etc. That comes to $150 per commuter household (then you have people like me who drive about half that). If you can afford two cars with insurance and a house in the burbs - that's probably not too much of a burden for most. If you are driving a pickup for work you are probably a contractor and ultimately that gets passed on to your clients one way or another.
Again - not sure this would be all incremental either which means it may just come down to accounting - eg. transfer the Big Dig debt to the general fund and cut the sales tax - but I think the incentives are better that way - drive less or take the T and use your sales tax savings to buy your gas if you need it or buy something else. That's a much bigger question and I'm too busy chasing down hizzoner's budget shenanigans to get started on Deval and the legislature! I'll leave that to the Widmer/Anderson tag team. :-)
If your car has a 15 gallon gas tank, a 0.10 per gallon increase is only an extra $1.50 per tank (or about the same as a 1/2 gallon of gas at current prices). You can't get a 20 oz soda or a large coffee for that at most places these days.
Has anyone asked them? The question seems pretty simple to ask and answer, so maybe someone should aske their state rep.
I've yet to receive a response from any of my reps on this. Or on anything I've e-mailed them, for that matter.
Eliminate The Cab Ride that's breaking the MBTA's budget at $90 million a year. Also eliminate the Hingham ferry which is duplicitous now that Greenbush is open and underutilized. Also eliminate the ferry from Quincy which is served by bus, Red Line and commuter rail. Aside from rush hour, these massive ferries are often traveling with a handful of passengers or less. What a waste. Raise fares systemwide to a reasonable rate and tie the fares to the cost of living or some other barometer so that every new fare hike doesn't become a multi-year ordeal. Didn't the legislature do that for their salaries? Merge the MBTA Transit Police with the State Police. Increasing the gas tax is a non-starter, especially for small businesses and those who rarely, if ever use the system.
aren't known to be particularly big. Now octopi, them's smart molluscs!
But just to riff off the uninformed comments and assumptions for a second; having fare increases regularly increase in a small and predictable manner is sort of the ideal (what we currently have -- like passing a birth through your nasal passages, is, as you might guess, not ideal). But the increase should not be paired up with cost of living so much as wages in order to make it sensible for low income people who are the ones who really rely on the system because there's very little choice otherwise.
More importantly having fare increases by a huge amount that actually does nothing to fix the inherent and ongoing funding shortfalls and will result in the same conversation in about 12 months is just beyond stupid. NO FARE INCREASES and NO SERVICE CUTS until they (meaning the legislature and our lame canard Gov) get real about the long term solutions to the friggin problem.
...Fishy is entirely correct in identifying The Ride as a major problem for the T. His eskimo solution of eliminating it seems pretty nasty (put nanna on the floe and kick her off 'eh?). Given the number of oldsters about to bust onto the scene out in the burbs in their houses with big lawns and no access to public transportation because damnit, I'll drive to the proctologist....oops which one's the brake?...who's that kid on my windshield?...whaddayamean you're taking away my license...how'm I gettin to the CVS for KOOOM-adin???
oy. Soylent Green take me away!
Oh, and The RIDE is mandated by federal law. Granted, the MBTA does go beyond the bare minimum requirements for paratransit provision but they cannot eliminate The RIDE without serious repercussions. In short, total elimination is illegal and the FTA will beat the shit out of a transit agency that does. Don't wake the sleeping policy dragon.
Must be nice knowing you'll never grow old.
That's why I support options for our seniors for getting around. My parents are beyond the age that they should be driving, so it falls on me (and my brothers) to help them out because they are no where near public transportation. I would like to be able to rely on some sort of reasonably priced service to get them around, but damn it's pricey. For low income folks it's even worse. And given what has happened to pensions and our safety net for seniors, well it doesn't bode well. But there is an age where people shouldn't be driving and even my folks are willing to admit it, because they remember how my grandparents used to drive....
I'm very aware of getting old. I'm already crotchety, my back's a mess, my hair is gray and I don't understand/can't tolerate young people. Just counting the days til my AARP magazine subscription starts. Too bad the 'R' part will probably never be applied to me.
You cannot get rid of the RIDE without making the system 100% accessible, and even then, I'm not sure we could completely eliminate it.
If fares are raised on a systematic basis, then why shouldn't the gas tax be raised in a similar manner? If you view the gas tax as a crude "user fee" then it should be treated accordingly. Raising fares is just as burdensome for people - and small businesses - as raising gas taxes. It needs to be done from time to time to keep up with inflation and operating expenses / debt service.
Alternatively, you can impose proper tolls on highways, and use the gas tax instead to remedy pollution and other externalities associated with gasoline usage.
Ferry service eliminations are probably a good idea. The police merge was also suggested by some formal commission, I think.
The most important step is to remove the Big Dig mitigation debt from the MBTA and transfer it back to the Commonwealth where it belongs. At least $1.67 billion in debt is directly traceable to Big Dig costs that do not belong to the T.
So they have enough money to purchase 2,456 (or is it 2,444, or 2457--they keep changing the order amount) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft at a total life cycle, operating and purchasing cost of close to $562,000,000 per unit, totaling nearly $1.4 TRILLION, but they don't have the chicken feed to cover this?!!!
1. Lockheed Martin F-35 Operating Costs May Reach $1 Trillion
"It may cost as much as $1 trillion to operate the military’s fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 aircraft for several decades, according to a preliminary Pentagon estimate sent to Congress"
2. Restructuring Places Program on Firmer Footing, but Progress Is Still Lagging
GAO-11-677T, May 19, 2011
"The estimated total investment cost is currently about $385 billion to develop and procure 2,457 aircraft." That's not counting the $TRILLION it will cost to maintain them!
3. Joint Strike Fighter Accelerating Procurement before Completing Development Increases the Government's Financial Risk GAO-09-303, Mar 12, 2009
"The total investment required now exceeds $1 trillion—more than $300 billion
to acquire 2,456 aircraft and $760 billion in life cycle operating and support costs, according to program estimates. " That was then, which is awful, but, as the previous links show, the costs have risen.