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Everything that's wrong with the leaked part of the MBTA report

James Aloisi writes that, to start, it's based on incorrect data on how the T's fares as a percentage of costs stack up with other transit systems. But the real issue, he says, is that what was leaked was really just a trial balloon to see if T riders are a bunch of sheep who will meekly accept cuts with no promises of better service ever.

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... to suggest that the Aloisi piece, mentioned in a comment, deserves its own post. Everyone who is interested in the T should read it.

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What’s worse, it appears that the commission is getting its basic facts wrong. According to the Globe report, the commission is about to report that “passenger fares cover a relatively small share of the MBTA’s operating expenses — 39 percent — compared with cities such as Chicago (44 percent), San Francisco (76 percent), and London (90 percent for its subway system alone).” These comparisons don’t stand scrutiny. Take San Francisco and the Bay Area as an example. BART, the regional rail system, may have a high fare box recovery rate (about 65 percent), but MUNI, the downtown bus and train system, has a 31 percent recovery rate and ACTransit (the Bay Area’s Oakland based public transit system) only 18 percent. BART, with the highest rate, doesn’t run a bus system. It is a rail-only system with a very different fare structure from the MBTA.

The Chicago figures don’t appear to include its suburban bus system, PACE, which has an 11 percent fare box recovery. (These are approximate numbers based on the National Transit Database). London’s bus system is highly subsidized by net revenues from its cordon pricing system – charging auto drivers a fee once they enter the city center. We don’t have anything like that here. So the commission’s own numbers do not appear to offer a true apple-to-apples comparison. How can decisions be made based on such data?

To quote Daniel Davies: "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance."

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May have done some crack early morning research on that for him.

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the report says just what Baker and DeLeo want it to say,

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Seriously - a low vision, corrupt* party machine politician who doesn't give a crap about the future of our state. Baker is what we think he is, but DeLeo is the rotten heart of the MA Democratic power, nicely papered over by the progressive liberals who are just window dressing.

* allegedly

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Have all served time. What are the chances he gets out squeaky clean? (Low)

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We send our crap to Winthrop and it gets processed and sent out to the depths of Mass Bay.

Wintrhop sends their crap to Boston to run the State Legislature.

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Deer Island is owned by Boston (or at least policed by BPD) so, not really.

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In what rational world are people expected to pay more for bad service? Will we respond to growing income inequality by raising fares on those least able to afford it? We have raised T fares consistently on a regular basis since the 1990s. In all of that time we have raised the gas tax once, and on such a modest scale as to be insignificant.

We have rejected adjusting the gas tax to inflation, but we continue to raise T fares with impunity. Is this going to be an era of modal equity and justice, or are we returning to the failed auto-centric approaches of the mid-2oth century?

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while he is calling for that only for gas taxes? Increasing both with votes has been the same, except, its a board of appointees vote for the T and elected representatives for gas tax increases. Neither is automatic.

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MBTA fares have risen faster than inflation. 2011 dollars - the MBTA fare of $1.70. Inflation to 2015 dollars says this should be 1.74. MBTA fares have increased from $1.70 to $2.10, outstripping inflation

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While I might hope for lower gas taxes, at least the MBTA and Keolis should be jumping up and down with joy for all the money they are saving on diesel fuel, and thus giving them budget surpluses.

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Paying 2% more per gallon rolls into your completely arbitrary price of gas. If you average $32.33/fillup this year and next year is $32.98, you won't notice when you pump the handle to $33 even both times.

Paying 2% more in a cash fare on the MBTA means finding pennies next year when the fares go from $2.10 to $2.14...

Furthermore, you ignored his entire point of bringing up the gas tax. Fares HAVE increased quite a bit in the past like 10 years. The gas tax has not (and is well under where it should be when compared to relative dollar values over time).

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Markky usually avoids directly responding to my point.

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When gas taxes are raised, the cost of everything delivered by motor vehicles, including food and clothing goes up in price, which then hurts those least able to afford it.

When food and clothing are delivered by the MBTA, everyone will suffer.

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The people there quite likely take the T to work. Same with the people at the clothing store. If transportation costs more, they either a) will wind up being paid more, meaning that you have to pay more, or b) they'll be paid the same shitty wages, and just pay more for transportation.

Or you could pay 2¢ more for that pair of pants.

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You know my point is that drivers need to start paying the true cost of driving but there go, trying to score weak deflection goals.

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... as well as the other free gateways to the city such as Routes 2 and 3? It's not fair that only drivers from the North Shore and some Western suburbs must contribute additional highway tolls that other commuters never pay.

The new open-road toll system installed on the Tobin Bridge last year proves how easy it would be to add tolls to all highways so that everyone pays their fair share. The funds raised from this could go a long way towards fixing the , and the crumbling highways too.

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Let's not feed the troll or give any politicians any ideas.

Of course I agree. Toll everything and watch how quickly ridership goes up on the T!

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Its a win win for everyone!

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And there will be a rapid transit line going over the Tobin to Saugus when?

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One of Deval's horrible early appointments, and a hack's hack. Shut up and go away, Jim. Please. I bet Boston2024 is still hiring off Deval's waiver wire, that's more your speed.

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Or just pure ad hominem? Because that's productive.

He makes some very good points …

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Well look at this: Jim Aloisi has become the Jay-Z of Mass. transportation politics ("first they love me ,then they hate me, then they love me again")!

People can say what they want about Aloisi (and moxie has), but anyone who is being fair has to concede that the man knows his stuff (both substantively and politically), and perhaps more importantly, is much cleaner (in the political sense) and cares about these things (and the T in particular) more than most.

I reiterate my comment from the other thread: when this report is formally released later this week, we are going to find out something about Stephanie Pollack (and, likely, how it came to be that she was appointed by a guy who most thought would have considered her something like Transportation Enemy No. 1). Is she going to call Shenanigans or endorse the "reform before revenue" approach that appears to be in the offing?

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Seems like a good opportunity for the Mayor to exert some leadership in calling for investment tied to sustaining the city's growth in tech sectors, addressing the transportation needs of a young workforce, etc, and show that he does have a cmvision beyond 2024.

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I haven't read the report, but from the Globe story on it, I think Baker's approach is right. I don't want to feed more money to an MBTA system that clearly needs serious revamping. Make the added revenue (tax hike, fare hike, combo, etc.) contingent on doing the painful fix part first. Otherwise it will never happen.

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In an earlier post about the report, someone (sorry, I forget your name, and I'm too lazy to open a new tab) compared the MBTA to a morbidly obese person who wants to lose weight: a starvation diet won't work. You have to continue fueling your body so it can exercise - because exercise is what will really work. Just fuel the body (or the T) intelligently and work hard (or address the atrocious maintenance backlog). Starvation never works, and this winter's MBTApocalypse is proof of that.

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excellent analogy!

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don't thank me - thank Kaz (I finally looked at the original comment).

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But they don't have the money to fix it. Re-organization costs money, whether it's the leadership, the work structure, or the bus lines. Think about moving. Sam might barely be able to afford their apartment, but can't move because they don't have the savings for first/last/deposit, because they can barely afford where they are now. Sure, they could cut out beer and cut down on coffee, but if they don't drink much to begin with it's going to take a looong time for them to save that money.

One example: the T doesn't have enough buses, which means that when one breaks down, it needs to be repaired right away - even if it's a holiday, weekend, or late at night. Which drives up salary costs. But they can't just buy more buses, even though they're relatively inexpensive, because all their bus yards are full. So they'd also need more money to buy land for bus yards, and to build the yard - including garages and fueling stations. Another example: the CR isn't run nearly as efficiently as it could be, because of "dead-heading". That's when an inbound train pulls into North or South Station, unloads, then has to pull out empty for cleaning, refueling, what-have-you. It uses precious time and track space. A massive amount of dead-heading could be solved with the North-South connection, but that costs money! Electrifying the CR would make it much more efficient and cheaper to run, and massively easier to maintain, but buying electric locomotives, stringing the wires, and converting the garages, you guessed it, costs money.

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And the interesting thing about the buses, is that the T can't buy more even if there is money for it, because they don't have enough storage in the bus yards. So here's an example of a required organizational fix that will take money to solve. Buy more yard space, to enable buying more buses. But there's the rub, because this is a crowded city, with few suitable parcels, mostly surrounded by NIMBYs.

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But the real issue, he says, is that what was leaked was really just a trial balloon to see if T riders are a bunch of sheep who will meekly accept cuts with no promises of better service ever.

...he's saying nobody who worked on this report has ever met a Bostonian ever?

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... there were few (if any) actual Bostonians on Baker's committee.

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The governor should be the one to appoint the MBTA director. Aloisi has made this point before.

Yes, the MBTA needs more money, but when you read the Herald's report about absenteeism in August, you start to think about insisting one some changes in the management, operations and most of all, mindset, of the organization.

DeLeo is playing Baker. The Speaker For Life Or Until Indicted supports the governor to keep any talk of any new revenue off the table, which effectively preserves everything that is wrong about the T. Nothing gets discussed. The Pacheco law. Pensions. Procurement. PATRONAGE. The status quo benefits the status quo beneficiaries.

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MBTA workers call out sick at 3x the rate of comparable transit systems, causing over 75% of missed bus trips for instance. That rate is again worse than the transit industry in general!

Major firings are whats needed, and replacement with people who want to work.

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Unless they hire a bunch of magic elves who practice alchemy and can poop out steel plates to speck on a whim.

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