This always seems to happen the day after the T issues dire warnings about finances

Yesterday, the MBTA warned the tax increases proposed by the legislature were so small it could jeopardize $500 million or in anticipated federal aid for the Green Line extension. This morning, as A.P. Blake noted at 8:55 a.m.:

In the past two hours, every rapid transit line in Boston has suffered some delay due to mechanical/signal failure.

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In the private sector

NO private equity firm/investor would ever finance a project/start-up with such loose spending and financial misappropriations. WHY should tax payers (the investors) be willing to put forth further fund into a project that is failing due to internal issues.

People need to demand an internal overhaul prior to allowing the state to increase our taxes for a project that is financially insatiable.

Not to say there isn't mismanagement

Not to say there's no mismanagement. But the problem with this argument is this have a large possibility that lead to nothing getting done for at least our lifetimes if not more. Because it seems trying to remove mismanagement seem to be impossible over the years. Meanwhile they keep cutting service, deferring maintenance, borrowing money, and raising fares. A strategy of starving the parasites seems to be killing the host more than killing the parasite (or maybe the parasites are largely dead now).

time for legislature to be required to take the T to work

Its time we as taxpayers started reimbursing the legislature for their drive to work, along with free parking. Instead, they will be reimbursed only to the closest commuter rail/bus or subway stop and given a T pass. The parking spaces on Beacon Hill could then be rented out to pay for the T passes (and probably have money left over) and the money wasted reimbursing them for travel would also save us money. But the biggest benefit would be that they would finally understand what it is like to depend on the T for work, a lot of people depend on the T that also feel they cant be late for work, and they need to see how they have let a great transit agency wither from underfunding.

Only a T-Pass?

You seriously propose giving state legislators only a T pass to get to Beacon Hill? You realize that Boston is not accessible by T to the vast majority of the state, right? You want a legislator from Western Mass to drive to Worcester, park, and then ride the T for at least an hour only to get to South Station? Puh-leaze.

The horror!

You want a legislator from Western Mass to drive to Worcester, park, and then ride the T for at least an hour only to get to South Station?

You mean ask them to do the same as other Worcester-area commuters to Boston? Shocking!

They might actually have to sit next to their constituents!

Well ...

They could always pay for both parking, gas, and tolls to drive in. Out of their own pocket, like everybody else does.

I second this whole hardily!

I second this whole hardily! You live in the western part of the state? Great no problem! Hop on at Worcester or soon to be extended Fitchburg! If you can't have empathy at least see how it feels so you can have some sympathy.

Taxes Already Pay For The T

State sales taxes already pay for a portion of The T. Since 2000, it is funded primarily through 16% of the state sales tax, with minimum dollar amount guarantee. This amount is almost double of what fares collect. Theoretically, if you wanted to help The T you could just buy more in Massachusetts.

You want a gesture of good faith to get any more money? Double the fares. This will allow revenue collected from fares to be more than from taxes, so in essence the people using the system will be the majority revenue stream of the system. Include as part of the fare increases rules of transparency of where the funds are going. Adjust the 5-year plan to focus on becoming solvent and reliable (yes, in the same breath).

After succeeding in executing this plan, asking for more money to do more, newer things becomes easier. Communities not currently involved will all of a sudden want a piece and will buy into it more readily. (Urban Rings, Line Extensions, New Lines (gasp!)).

Worried about the people who won't be able to afford the double fares? I'm sure those same people are already subsidized. For those who are more capable, make it more attractive to commute by The T than by car by offering tax breaks to companies who help subsidize monthly passes instead of monthly parking.

A better idea

A per-mile charge for vehicles registered in MA to pay for the full cost of maintaining roadways. (trucks already pay such taxes)

Double the tolls, too, and add them to more roadways.

That would be fair.

You Didn't Address Likely Counterpoints

You are aware that the MBTA already increased their fares quite a bit and made painstaking effort to maximize revenue? Like new animated ads and front door only boarding to prevent evaders.

All that effort to get many pennies as possible just to stay in the same place. Ironically, nearly doubling is their next idea now too and its only enough to be slightly worse than they currently are.

You know what also help? The ability to take current revenue and spend it on better service and maintenance. You not might be aware, but huge amount of current revenue is just covering the minimum payment on debt (and as an analogy, take a guess how effective debt reduction when only making the minimum payment on credit card debt).

You may argue that its their fault they put themselves in that debt.

What if I told you that when they dedicated the sale tax in 2000 for the MBTA, they also package a bunch of Big Dig debt for the MBTA to service too? So a good part of the debt is debt that the MBTA didn't borrowed themselves. BTW, it was justified by saying the sales tax revenue should allow the MBTA to pay it off anyways - but the sales tax revenue never grew at that rate.

So instead of more good faith actions like raising fares - which they did already - how about rewarding them by taking away the debt they never borrowed?

----

How about this argument rather than the above: They already raised fares - multiple times. They produced Youtube videos to show examples of the causes of breakdowns like a string that occur in the winter of 2011 by snow (more transparency). They released train data making it easier to both find when they come and track breakdowns (except the Green Line - which they admit can't even track the trains themselves). They instituted front door only boarding to ensure as much fares are collect above ground as possible. Science Park reconstruction was actually done fast (and I think it was actually done early).

This is not to say they are innocent and perfect organization without more incompetence and corruption. But I'm pretty sure that back in 2008, I can find no good things to name at all.

So how many more gestures of good faith do they need? Or please attack point-by-point everything I listed in how they are not gestures of good faith? Serious question.

Big Dig

I'm not saying the MBTA should be where the debt is housed. I mean, the whole budget for that project is IMO a crime from what I read about it as a transplant.

My question is, how much tax revenue from drivers is diverted into the T as is?

As a driving commuter who lives on the edges of Cambridge (who doesn't have much choice how I get to work being that I work in Lexington), I grimace when I hear suggestions to raise the gas tax to pay for the T as opposed to the service users themselves. The roads I drive on are already pretty horrendous, if the gas tax is rising I'd want it to go to the roads - not the T I already pay a higher fare for than the monthly users.

The cost of a T pass is < $100 a month I believe, which is significantly cheaper than car payment, insurance, gas, AND having to pay normal T fares. Everyone describes the fare hikes as "painful" but its still not even close to what a driver has to pay.

The other point I wince at is how frequently T riders say only drivers benefit from the Dig. I didn't live in Boston until it was completed, but from what I'm told the highways and congestion made downtown quite a nightmare. Surely the beneficiaries of the dig are more than just drivers. Anyone who works/lives/travels/walks/bikes/breathes downtown is a beneficiary I would imagine.

How much revenue...

My question is, how much tax revenue from drivers is diverted into the T as is?

Since Boston wouldn't function well without the T and Boston is the economic engine of the region, I think it's fair to say that all those tax revenues (of various kinds) used for road maintenance in the rest of Massachusetts are dependent on the upkeep of the T.

As a driving commuter who lives on the edges of Cambridge (who doesn't have much choice how I get to work being that I work in Lexington), I grimace when I hear suggestions to raise the gas tax to pay for the T as opposed to the service users themselves. The roads I drive on are already pretty horrendous, if the gas tax is rising I'd want it to go to the roads - not the T I already pay a higher fare for than the monthly users.

The gasoline excise tax is absurdly low at the moment, having not been raised in 20 years, and it is depleted by inflation because it is a flat nominal cost per gallon.

Gasoline receives an enormous implicit subsidy by not being subject to sales tax. Perhaps we should just restore sales tax on gasoline and make the gasoline excise tax pure Pigovian -- to pay for and mitigate the pollution and carnage caused by the internal combustion engine and vehicles.

The local roads you drive on are largely paid for through property tax, which everyone pays, directly or not.

The interstate highways are funded through the Federal Interstate Highway fund which has been going broke for years now; and is regularly propped up with an infusion of tens of billions of dollars from general Federal tax revenues.

Finally, are you sure you want to be competing with all the extra drivers on the roads if you subsidize driving costs to be lower than transit costs? Not to mention the parking problem; which would probably require flattening most of the city that you presumably favor, in order to create more parking spaces for all those cars. Although, if the bombed-out city is your preference, there's plenty of American cities just like that to choose from...

Surely the beneficiaries of the dig are more than just drivers. Anyone who works/lives/travels/walks/bikes/breathes downtown is a beneficiary I would imagine.

Well, we could have simply removed/boulevarded the Central Artery for most of the same benefits (e.g. Central Freeway in SF, or Cheonggyecheon in Seoul) at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Estimated benefits from the Big Dig are $168 million/year which sounds like a lot until you realize that it will take about a century to recoup the cost (before interest) of $15 billion.

And much of the benefit of putting a highway underground was negated by the "Surface Artery" which is the 6-lane at-grade highway for which the "Greenway" is the glorified median strip.

Half Co-sign as a Response to John, Half Rebuttal to Matthew

Since Boston wouldn't function well without the T and Boston is the economic engine of the region, I think it's fair to say that all those tax revenues (of various kinds) used for road maintenance in the rest of Massachusetts are dependent on the upkeep of the T.

I would word that both the MBTA and roads both provide each other.

We need to view system as a complete system - a transit system. That means cars, trains, busses, bikes, and the roads and rails that support it as a complete system. Not roads subsidizes rail or rail subsidizes roads.

Finally, are you sure you want to be competing with all the extra drivers on the roads if you subsidize driving costs to be lower than transit costs? Not to mention the parking problem; which would probably require flattening most of the city that you presumably favor, in order to create more parking spaces for all those cars. Although, if the bombed-out city is your preference, there's plenty of American cities just like that to choose from...

The words above I co-sign as a rebuttal to his response to my comment. This one I cannot co-sign. Because you presume John wants to flatten Boston and thus being to point him as some heartless, evil guy by point a "bombed-out" Boston. More importantly is the assumption that Boston would flatten out buildings in downtown, where land value is highest, for parking lots. That is very unlikely. It's very reasonable to counter-point that no one is going to knock down buildings for parking lots. Because most buildings are too valuable for any lots. The downtown Boston cityscape would remain unchanged, I would say the area outside the highly developed areas of metro-Boston would get transformed.

Well, we could have simply removed/boulevarded the Central Artery for most of the same benefits (e.g. Central Freeway in SF, or Cheonggyecheon in Seoul) at a tiny fraction of the cost.

I also can't co-signed this. Just outright knocking down the Central Artery cannot be equated to the Central Freeway or Cheonggyecheon. Correct me, but I recall the numbers just didn't match. And don't you DARE says "traffic is not like water" (it still irritates me when you made that argument). If you operate that shutting down the MBTA that the people won't just disappear but flood the roads, then so would the vice versa. This is not to say the Big Dig was the right action (though I am more focused on the mismanagement and terrible estimation), but it is still more than just closing the Artery and calling it a day.

Geometry

That means cars, trains, busses, bikes, and the roads and rails that support it as a complete system

Yes and no. You are missing the fundamental fact of geometry. Cars, roads and parking lots cannot replace the volume of people carried by buses and trains. There is just not enough space in Boston to do that. I'll get back to this point.

Because you presume John wants to flatten Boston and thus being to point him as some heartless, evil guy by point a "bombed-out" Boston. More importantly is the assumption that Boston would flatten out buildings in downtown, where land value is highest, for parking lots. That is very unlikely.

I'm not accusing him of anything. I am just pointing out what will happen. Again, it's geometry. You will need to flatten areas of Boston to build parking lots. The early planners realized this right away, noting that an area the size of the North End would need to be turned into a parking lot to handle the demand at that time (mid-40s).

Lest you think this is "theoretical" let me remind you once again that nearly every other American city is covered with surface parking lots and many, many buildings were sacrificed to create them. Take a Google maps tour of places like Oklahoma City or Indianapolis.

Even in Boston, if it were not for the regulations (parking cap) due to the Clean Air Act, there would have been more buildings lost to parking garages/lots.

Just outright knocking down the Central Artery cannot be equated to the Central Freeway or Cheonggyecheon. Correct me, but I recall the numbers just didn't match. And don't you DARE says "traffic is not like water" (it still irritates me when you made that argument). If you operate that shutting down the MBTA that the people won't just disappear but flood the roads, then so would the vice versa.

Of course it's more than closing the Artery and calling it a day. We would have spent significantly more on boosting public transportation -- which was the original plan -- only ditched because of the Big Dig cost overruns.

I say "traffic is not like water" because water does not have a brain, does not have the ability to make decisions, or adapt to changing circumstances by planning ahead.

What shutting down the MBTA suddenly will do is at first send people into their cars temporarily (as seen in NYC post-hurricane) and that will be gridlock. But then people will start to change their behavior. Some will car-pool, or even try to start up their own bus service. The Clean Air Act parking regulations probably won't hold up under the political pressure. But plenty of other folks will start to leave. Businesses will move out. People will head to other cities. Eventually the transportation system will settle at a new equilibrium with fewer people heading into Boston. And that is tantamount to a massive loss of regional wealth. As I said before, the economic engine that is Boston depends on the T, and therefore the rest of the region does too.

P.S. Cheonggyecheon is comparable in some ways. Estimated volumes were 120,000 vehicles/day. It was replaced by BRT.

Already happening

When the commuter rail pass costs soared last summer, two things happened:

1) the lots on the periphery of downtown, at Wellington and other rail stops all started to fill up more quickly each morning; and

2) the prices to park were jacked up by the private lot owners, and some lots went to monthly parking only at a 30% price hike; and

3) neighborhoods without sticker parking noted an increase in people driving in to park and take the light rail lines.

This cannot continue given fixed numbers of parking spots.

In this vein...

I thought of this thread again today as I passed the T Riders Union protest on my way home in a cab that I had to take after realizing that the green line trains just weren't going to show up in Gov't Center
(in either direction; at rush hour). No announcements, just no trains, and an increasingly large crowd.