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Report: MBTA management broken, so Beacon Hill needs to take back control

That MBTA report is finally out and basically concludes Charlie Baker and legislative leaders need to take over control of the authority through a new "Fiscal and Management Control Board" to replace the new MassDOT board Deval Patrick and legislative leaders set up to take over control of the authority.

The report calls for an end to restrictions on fare increases - in fact, it criticizes the T for offering pass holders higher discounts than other transit agencies in the US and England and says that's "unsustainable."

The state should look at creating a special property-tax levy in the communities served by the T to fund capital improvements and pay off the T's debt - with a state commitment to pay off Big Dig related debts but no new ones.

Oh, and New Bedford? You might want to rethink those plans that assume you're getting commuter rail anytime soon.

The recommendations also include making the T figure out how to spend the capital money it already has - and just on capital projects, not salaries - and crack the whip on workers, too many of whom the panel concluded are system-abusing layabouts.

The report also calls for a halt to any spending on system expansion that doesn't already have federal funding until that program is actually in place. That means the Green Line Extension, which recently received a commitment of nearly $1 billion in federal funds is OK, but plans for an electrified commuter-rail line to New Bedford should be shelved.

The report estimates a 20-year period for "the complete restoration" of the T's physical assets.

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Comments

Okay, that's it, Baker and his panel of "experts" must be living in another planet.

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But I think that it's so hopelessly broken that some form of receivership is the only solution. The people who run it, fund it, and work for it are completely incapable of doing their jobs.

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Receivership was inevitable. Current state restrictions and laws hamstring the organization. Hopefully, they give it the proper tools to function (which could include human, fiscal, or legislative capital).

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and his panel were truly interested in fixing the T, then it stands to reason they would recommend changing (or just flat out eliminating) those restrictions and laws. Instead, they're just looking for an excuse to underfund the system even more.

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But this report is certainly a clear shot across the bow for fare hikes. This will open doors to increased "user fees" associated with public transportation.

Is it right or wrong? I guess we will find out...

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The report specifically recommends exempting the T from some of those laws hamstringing it. Page 20 talks about exempting them from the anti-privatization law ("Pacheco law") and some others; page 12 mentions legislation necessary to allow them to raise fares. And the entirety of page 38 is an exhaustive list of legislation needed to free the T from laws restricting it.

Did you actually read the report, or are you just dismissing it because you don't like the source?

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... ever.

And I predict Baker the (allegedly) Business-Savvy will prove to be one of the Commonwealth's worst governors ever.

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He can address problems, unlike Deval. Everything including DCF was anecdotal.

Raise revenues, and monitor how it allocates available capital. OOOOooo The horror!

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No. That isn't ALECs goal here.

Their goal is to destroy public transit and bust the public sector unions. Their fanboy doesn't give a shit about actually addressing the problems - more like exploiting problems.

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I for one am shocked--SHOCKED--that running a state government is in no way similar to running a business, and that Charlie is out of his depth.

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Will be pretty tough to beat in that category.

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One example of inefficient work practices can be observed in how the MBTA responded to Late Night Service with respect to its train maintenance program. As the service day lengthened, the night maintenance shift was reduced to only four hours each night – and fewer hours on weekends. Given set up and tear down time, the mechanics now only spend 1-3 hours per day actually working on the trains, yet the MBTA pays them for a full 8 hour shift.

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Buddy of mine works thru a Laborers local, and did a few months third shift track work on the T, funded thru Federal recovery money. He says they averaged three hours of actual work per shift.

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... the report raises lots of questions that the ought to answer.

There's actually a number of recommendations I agree with, such as:

Rationalize and reform system routes, particularly bus routes

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While I agree many bus routes should be modernized, as many still follow the old trolley routes.

But I'd love to see the cost analysis of how much would be saved along with how much $ it would cost to do such a thing.

Ideas are great, but most cost money so we're kinda back to square one.. the T has no money!

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after much money is budgeted, its put out to bid, one is selected, they do the work, hold public hearings, return a report, hold more public hearings, people object to changes, and years later, not much changes when money can't be found to implement the route movements.

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Nice friend you have there. Not everyone who works for a union is like that you know.

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"As the service day lengthened, the night maintenance shift was reduced to only four hours each night – and fewer hours on weekends. "

I don't think the weekday service hours were ever shorter than they are now. They've been about 5 am to 12:45 am for several decades, probably all the way back until the trains ran all night in the early 60s. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

"working on the trains" -- no, the issue is working on the tracks. Even if trains are running 24 hours, only a small proportion of the rush hour fleet will be running at night, so any trains that need work can be in the repair shop.

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I'm reading some of the stuff coming thru, and it's clear baker and this committee have no clue about public transit or even ride it. And it's also clear that some of these plans are suggested by people who have no idea how public transit really works.. they seem more "business" moves than actual transit policy.

The other thing I am gathering from this report is this.

It's 100% a load of crap that lacks many details in it (and many half truths). It's to make Charlie Baker look good. Why? because not only is he the reason for the Big Dig debt issue, but he ran on a platform of "conservative spending" and "no new taxes". And he certainly doesn't want to "that guy" who had to reneg on their campaign promises (as many do once they realize they pretty much have to).

So do you think a panel that he appointed would come out and say "yeah its xyz reasons and you're the cause, and yes you're going to have to re-neg on your campaign promises"? No, of course they wouldn't say that, so the data is skewed. It's all to make him look good and look like he's doing something AND to keep his campaign promises. Typical Mass politics, never for the people, always for the politicians to keep face.

So look forward to service cuts, 10 dollar fares, and a system that just will be "more of the same"

PS - Love the board appointment thing.. so we can have more of Charlie's non-riding T friends on boards to make decisions they have know virtually nothing about.

On a different note, suggestions on getting a decent used car? I'm going to need one.. fuck this noise.

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but a Smart Car!

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a Smaht Cah?

(and no I wouldn't.. death trap on wheels IMHO)

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Fifth Gear recently did crash testing on Smart Cars. For their small size, they held up suprisingly well in moderate speed impacts.

Still wouldn't dare drive one out on Interstate 95 or 93 though.

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I saw that too.

Still seems like a death trap to me and not very good in the snow. But people drive them so my rental impression may be wrong.

And yes, that's the other thing, they aren't made for high speeds. The steering wheel starts to vibrate.. (I speak from personal experience.. I rented one once a while ago)

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I've never driven a SmartCar but I have driven cars that needed wheel alignments (which can cause very noticable vibrations). Your rental car may
have hit a pothole or two previous to you using it.

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They aren't good in the snow.

There are some videos out there from their launch in the US - they use one in a head-on with a small Mercedes. The smart car is a hampster ball - it demolishes the Mercedes, actually.

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Why settle for just a decent used car? Might as well splurge since its not like this state ever adjusts the gas tax or charges for parking permits in Boston or charges the market rate for metered parking. You can even get your own free personal parking space as long as you put a piece of garbage in the street. And if the snow removal budget goes over its fine, car drivers musn't be hassled by snow, they'll get the millions from elsewhere.

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I take pride in that I've never had a car payment, EVER, and I'd like to keep it that way.

I wouldn't buy a new car anyways, loses its value the minute you drive it off the lot.

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Cybah, you seem to be a public transit expert. Perhaps you should be running the MBTA(insert sarcasm)! Last time I checked, when goods and service are exchanges for a fee(money) its a business and runs like a business. Yah know balance sheets, income statements capital expenses, revenue. "Transit policy" is irrelevant if the business side of things fail to operate...

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whatever dude.. not even gonna waste my time explaining because you obvious don't get it. (did you even read the report in full?)

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Public transportation is meant to be a public service. Privatizing it (i.e., making it a business) would likely make it less accessible to the public, thus eliminating its usefulness as a public service. There are still facts and figures and budgets and such in public services, but it's not a business just because money is involved.

~*~the more you know~*~~

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False dichotomy. Ever heard of non-profits? Hospitals, food banks, all sorts of other public assistance programs, but not provided by government. They're private, but they're not for-profit businesses, and they're run for the benefit of the public.

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Gee, I did not realize Partners was so altruistic. I guess it was wrong to apply the Tunney Act and we should have just let them keep gobbling up hospitals like the Borg.

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I'm reading some of the stuff coming thru, and it's clear baker and this committee have no clue about public transit or even ride it.

The deuce you say.

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The system has been starved of necessary investment for too long.

The T's woeful state is symptomatic of a larger problem: the Commonwealth's 18th century constititution, written for a society of gentleman farmers, dosen't work in the modern world. A document that gives Robert DeLeo, responsible only to a relative handful of voters in Winthrop, so much power over legislative priorities that affect the whole Commonwealth is clearly dysfunctional.

As Patriot's day approaches, it occurs to me that Massachusetts would probably be better off today if the British had won. Our Canadian neighbors have a much more sensible constitution.

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You know, that little $2.2B allocated for repair/improvement over the last five years, that wasn't spent on repair/improvement?

The management of this agency is quite simply befucked. The problem starts there.

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is whether the capital budget can be tapped for repair/improvement? Are there any restrictions on the same?

I do agree, however, that there has to be management changes.

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The vast majority of time capital funds are tied to specific projects and cannot be redirected into other funds. There's also a lot of capital funds laying around that have been approved to be devoted to in-progress projects that are still unspent (ie paying for landscaping on the GLX, which they won't pay out until it happens, but is budgeted, so looks unspent)

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About how federal funding works? Contracts?

Or do you simply have no clue about holdbacks and phased pay outs and all that? These funds are not fungible.

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They figured out a way to use $66.5M of capital funds to pay for 444 employees' salaries (see p17). But they can't figure out how to use capital funds on other capital expenditures. Lol.

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Indeed, this part of the report was truly mind-boggling. You'd think they'd at least find a way to squander that $2B on more six-figure do-nothing no-show executive positions. The T management is so incompetent and inept they can't even figure out how to waste available money efficiently.

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Why can't some (most it seems) commenters here accept anything Baker or this panel says? It's like suddenly everyone here is an expert on public transit.

And at least he's trying to do something with the T. What exactly did Deval or Mitt do to improve things?

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Patrick worked to expand dedicated funding for the T. Remember the increase in the gas tax? Also got funding for the new Red and Orange Lime trains.

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Those sound delicious.

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...that some of them are lemons...

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Also got funding for the new Red and Orange Lime trains.

Which, due to the structural problems in the T as pointed out in this report, won't actually be fully delivered for nearly another decade.

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They were funded in 2013, spec'ed in 2014, bid in 2014, and the contract is now out and being signed (oh and came in well under budget).

Now why is it taking so long? Because the parochial powers that be made a perhaps political calculation that they had to be build in Massachusetts, rather than in another state that has a functioning transit factory. So they have to build a factory! That takes time. You don't just buy these things off a lot.

How long do you think it takes Ford to R&D, spec, design and assemble a car prototype before it rolls off the line? More than a year, that's for damn sure.

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...had "we" decided these cars were of critical and urgent need, there are several car builders in the US with existing factories, some even with rapid transit cars rolling off the assembly lines right now. I'm sure Kawasaki could have taken the guts of their cars for NYC MTA or WMATA and put then in carbodies shaped to fit our tunnels quite easily. But that would have entailed letting them be built in New York or Nebraska. Can't have that, so we're going with untried and untested.

The T's procurement process is a mess. But somehow I don't see how putting the politicians in more control of it is going to improve the process.

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I wouldn't go around talking up Deval's management accomplishments if you want to win an argument.

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It's like suddenly everyone here is an expert on public transit.

I guarantee you 90% of commenters on UHub are more knowledgeable about public transit than Charlie Baker and his cronies.

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Many people before him have commissioned these expert panels to produce reports and recommendations. No one has really done much with them yet. I am willing to give Baker a chance and see if he actually tries to make some changes. If he actually takes the recommendations of the panel and takes over control of the MBTA, that would be a bold move. He would then own the entire problem himself and be judged on the outcome.

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The state should look at creating a special property-tax levy in the communities served by the T to fund capital improvements and pay off the T's debt - with a state commitment to pay off Big Dig related debts but no new ones.

Yes, let's drive housing costs up even more! Big Dig debt should be moved back to the roads, plain and simple (this from someone who drives every day).

According to the report, the MBTA pays $108 million annually in big dig debt. I just looked at MassDot data for the tunnels and Tobin in Boston, and in 2013 (the most recent I can find) combined toll revenue was just south of $411 million. If there were a 5% toll increase, that's another $20.5 million per year right there that could all go towards the Big Dig, and these numbers may be higher based on updated data.

Not perfect, but it's a start and the increase would be negligible to drivers.

The report calls for an end to restrictions on fare increases - in fact, it criticizes the T for offering pass holders higher discounts than other transit agencies in the US and England and says that's "unsustainable."

This will probably cause more harm than it's worth. Wheres the tipping point between paying a exorbitant amount for unreliable transit service (after all, this plan is supposed to take 20 years), and driving? I'd also be willing to bet fare evasion would increase due to people just on the cusp of being able to afford the T no longer being able to after a larger hike, and also because:

The recommendations also include making the T figure out how to spend the capital money it already has - and just on capital projects, not salaries

I've already pointed out in another thread that fare evaders get away with it, because you never actually see any T employees in stations, with the exception of some of the "Major" ones.

and crack the whip on workers, too many of whom the panel concluded are system-abusing gadabouts.

You're not going to win disengaged personnel back, and turnover comes at a very high cost in the form of training, recruiting, etc. It's a catch-22.

The halt on expansion is actually a good idea.

The public-private partnership idea NEEDS to be explored further and be brought front and center. I dedicated a year of graduate school to researching and redesigning a communications and social media strategy for the MBTA (which for the record is MUCH better than what they're doing now), and in the process also got into the business aspect a bit, particularly exploring PPP's. Setting these up with anyone who has a stop named after them would go a long, long way. BU, Northeastern, BC, MFA, Prudential, and other organizations with money have a lot to offer, and gain.

Get these organizations to fund cleaning and maintaining their respective stations in exchange for branding rights (as opposed to just selling them to random corporations as explored a few years ago) and either exclusive advertising rights in these stations, or a cut of outside advertising revenue for placements sold at these stations. You can also add free digital advertising for these organizations via social media at virtually no cost (posting/sharing/tweeting events, info, etc.)

There's way too much "old school" though in this report, and that's a big problem in such an "innovative" city.

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The state should look at creating a special property-tax levy in the communities served by the T to fund capital improvements and pay off the T's debt - with a state commitment to pay off Big Dig related debts but no new ones.

For the record: if your town is populated by commuters who drive in, then you are served by the T whether or not you have bus/train service, simply because the T reduces the number of people you share the roads with.

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So not sure where you're coming from. I simply said increasing housing costs via property taxes is NOT a good solution in this area.

From Business Insider this past February, which names the Boston area the 7th most expensive place to live in America:

Taxes are what will really set you back in the Boston metro area. And when it comes to housing, Boston is the second-worst bargain when it comes to getting the most space for your money — $1 million won't even get you 2,100 square feet

I said that Big Dig debt should be placed back on the roads, aka the drivers (like myself), not the transit system.

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I pay taxes in another city in another part of the country and they are considerably higher and include more services.

Somebody must have asked someone in Southern NH.

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The Taxachusetts moniker is inaccurate?

Seriously though, I won't get into a debate about Business Insider's sources, and if the article is inaccurate, fine.

Regardless, the cost of living in this area, especially housing, is extremely high for a variety of reasons. And while taxes may or may not play a role now, increasing property taxes increases the cost of housing, and that is not a good thing.

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...I suspect you were kidding, but yes, the Taxachusetts moniker is inaccurate. I recently returned here from the Albany area, and NY taxes in nearly every category (auto, income, property, fees, whatever) are worse in nearly every way (higher, more tedious to calculate and pay, more paperwork, more fighting with the department over the true amount due). If you dislike MA/Boston taxes, I invite you to try New York State.

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Spent 25 years there.

I'm not saying MA is the worst in the country, but there are a LOT of ridiculous taxes/charges here too.

What I'm saying is raising property taxes to pay for the T is stupid.

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The Taxachusetts moniker is inaccurate?

Yes. It is inaccurate. The high costs of real estate in the Boston area are due to the high cost of the real estate.

Massachusetts comes in at #31 - pretty much near the middle:
http://www.cnbc.com/id/102566710

Considering our income and property values are quite high, the overall burden isn't bad at all.

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Go to Bakersfield. It's wicked cheap there. There's tons of pollution and no water, but it's cheap.

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Sigh. Reading comprehension.

This argument is that we shouldn't make housing MORE expensive to cover the mismanagement of our transit system.

Nothing to do with living anywhere cheap. Just not making it even more expensive here.

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The report calls for an end to restrictions on fare increases - in fact, it criticizes the T for offering pass holders higher discounts than other transit agencies in the US and England and says that's "unsustainable."

This will probably cause more harm than it's worth. Wheres the tipping point between paying a exorbitant amount for unreliable transit service (after all, this plan is supposed to take 20 years), and driving? I'd also be willing to bet fare evasion would increase due to people just on the cusp of being able to afford the T no longer being able to after a larger hike[.]

Yeah, something I don't understand with these other transit systems is that their monthly passes basically cost more than the number of trips a person would take to get to/from work each day. (See the "trip multiple" bubbles on page 11 of the report.) If you use the T only, or primarily, to commute to work, you'd use it 40x per month (2x day, 20 workdays/mo). So why would you buy a monthly pass that costs more than 40x a single-ride fare?

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...to make the T look bad. Like a lot of the comparisons to other systems, they cherry pick the data to compare. WMATA is the outlier (throwing out London which is even more irrelevant a comparison than NYC), and they picked an artificially high pass (the 28-day FastPass), which is not intended for the same use as an MBTA LinkPass. The Metrorail system is still designed to have most riders pay by the ride, rather than via the unlimited ride system. A rider (as they illustrate on page 11) going from SIlver Spring to Metro Center would pay $3.60 per trip (peak price), and $144 for 40 one-way trips (average month). That FastPass they cite only makes sense for trips from outer areas (when the one-way peak fare hits the $5.90 max), but in those cases you're talking about trips that are comparable to commuter rail here. (And that's another insidious problem with the report - the Metrorail system isn't comparable to our subway - it's a hybrid of commuter rail and subway that reaches further into the suburbs than ours does, given that DC has a very limited commuter rail system.)

I also compared two trips I'm more familiar with. Melrose to Boston (commuter rail here) and New Carrollton to downtown DC (done by Metro, although there is a MARC commuter rail stop there as well). In DC, the trip costs $4.35 each way, or $174 per month (40x one-way). In Boston, that trip by commuter rail costs $5.75 one way, or a pass is $182. So there you actually get more frequent service at less cost than in Boston.

Their cherry-picking of data to compare with the T makes you wonder just how rooted in reality a lot of this report is.

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And the big problem with comparing with London and NYC is that in those cities, most people go everywhere by public transit, not just to work. So monthly passes are priced higher than the cost of 2 trips per weekday.

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Fixed.

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This is already almost the case on commuter rail. Monthly passes (the online variety) for my zone are slightly less than the cost of 32 rides (i.e. 16 days of roundtrips). Most months, all it takes is four or five days of work at home (and/or rides where my pass isn't checked) to make passes uneconomical.

So, past a certain point, raising the price of monthly passes can decrease revenue. Certainly in all cases there's a fixed point beyond which there is no more revenue to be gained by raising the price, and if the commuter rail pricing is any guide, the MBTA may already be close to that price.

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yeah if it starts to cost more to take the T than to park...getting up super early and driving in is looking better and better.

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I live and work on opposite ends of the city, and even with Storrow traffic, it's a 20-30 min drive vs an hour to 1:15 train ride. And that's with going opposite rush hour traffic by the time I hit the Green Line.

Granted I have free parking at my office (yes, that does exist!), I'd pay in a heartbeat to avoid dealing with the MBTA. My car was in the shop for a week back in March, and that was one miserable week.

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Remember, "Big Dig debt" actually means Silver Line and Greenbush Commuter Rail debt.

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But it's my understanding that the transit portion of the Big Dig was required for environmental purposes to make the rest of it happen. It was pretty much forced debt, regardless of what was done with it.

But hey, at least the Silver Line is efficient, rig...nevermind.

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I don't give a shit how the T is run or who runs it. They can take their pick provided one thing is clear:

NO SERVICE CUTS OR DISRUPTIONS

If they claim they can squeeze more out of the system, fine. If they think a better manager will solve the problem, fine. The only thing that matters to users and Metro Boston is that the trains arrive on time, on the same schedule used for the last few years, and that they operate reliably. But they can't claim the T is fully funded and then cut services.

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meaning that if you drive to a MBTA stop from an outlying town like Dover or whatever, you don't have to pay for it? I can see not asking the citizens of Springfield, etc.... to pay but then again metro Boston generates more taxes than it receives* so why not?

* I think?

So now we see the MBTA get reformed with further service impacts and then maybe in 2-3 years after the reforms have failed to solve all the issues, we can look at fixing the funding? I hope it's a mild winter next year.

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The state should look at creating a special property-tax levy in the communities served by the T to fund capital improvements and pay off the T's debt

As long as the wester part of the state gets an equal amount of tax levys to start paying for all the money they steal from us in the city :)

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But it makes perfect sense to tax washing machines in Pittsfield to fund buses in Wakefield.

If it wasn't for all the income tax paid by bus-riding Wakefielders, income which clearly couldn't exist if only eastern Mass sales tax funded the T, our state would be so poor that we'd all be using washboards and wringers.

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"it criticizes the T for offering pass holders higher discounts"

This panel really is clueless. Pass holders get a deal for two major reasons:
1) Guaranteed revenue for MBTA. Cash in hand is better than cash in bush, or however that saying goes. Basically, when someone buys a pass, MBTA gets cash up front, versus the POSSIBILITY of future rides
2) It encourages off-peak ridership, where extra bodies cost the MBTA a grand total of zero, and the MBTA competes with FREE parking and little traffic congestion.

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If the passes cost more than 40 single-ride fares, many if not most of the people who just use the T to commute to and from work are going to stop buying passes. (See page 11 in the report, currently the passes cost 30-35 times the single-ride price.)

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Exactly, and how much money are they really losing by giving a discount when a company, let's say, buys in bulk for its workers when it wouldn't have otherwise? it's called a sales incentive - Charlie should know this. It's a guaranteed payment per month no matter how often the person uses it. Sure, they might get ten more bucks a month from one person if they charged them per ride, but another month let's say that person goes on vacation and they're making twice as much for half as many rides. They get the money whether the person uses it or not. The person gets a tax deduction for taking the T. The company gets to offer it as a benefit. Everybody wins!

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When I was first pricing out the monthly pass, I chose not to get one. Looking at current prices, a monthly pass is $75. A single ride is $2.10. In order to not be spending MORE money than per-trip, you would have to be taking at bare minimum 35.7 rides a month - which makes sense for a commuter taking it at least twice a day, but commuters often have other options - walk, bike, drive/carpool, company shuttle or taxi... and they flood the system during peak time, as you mention. The cost is prohibitive for people who may not take the T that many times, and those people would likely be off-peak.

If anything, the discounts on monthlies should be higher, so people who don't need the T to commute but live/work around the system use it more, pumping money into the system. It should be reversed - high costs for street parking permit, resident discount on T pass.

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One thing you need to factor in with the T Pass is that for many employees, whose employer funds a pre-tax transit deduction, is you save even more money. For those who don't have that option, remember you can and should claim a deduction for transit passes bought with post-tax pay.

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I believe that's only a state deduction, right?

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If your employer doesn't offer pre-tax transit (which can be either employer- or employee-funded, by the way), the only deduction you get is on your state income tax. That's 5.15% of a maximum of $750. Woo hoo, $38.63 -- party at my place!

Also note that while pre-tax transit can be used for pay-per-ride fares or passes on any transit agency, the post-tax deduction is only valid for MBTA monthy and weekly passes. If you're in the unfortunate situation of living in Lowell or Springfield and have to commute by bus, sucks for you. They say you can also deduct commuter rail "Twelve-Ride" passes, or T express bus or commuter boat "Ten-Ride" passes, but those don't exist any more.

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They want us to double-check the discounts that monthly pass holders are getting?

They think this discount double-check is going to save us money?

There is no way in the last month that they actually ran any numbers regarding whether reducing the pass discounts would actually generate more revenue. They would need to determine what user thresholds were for when they buy a pass versus when they buy a single ride. They would need to determine all the intrinsic reasons people buy them versus don't buy them and determine if users see enough value added to justify buying a pass even if it is purely at face value.

This discount double-check couldn't possibly even raise enough money to do anything meaningful compared to the millions of dollars of debt service per year and maintenance needs and winterization and everything else!

Why would this panel even go there when there is so much more to deal with that they could have had more depth on and instead decided to spend ANY time at all brainstorming ways to bilk users for a few bucks more without actually running ANY of the necessary projects to determine if the idea would even result in what they claim it would?!

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Once in a great while, and everyone on the damn train seems to have a pass. In fact I have no idea what they have because the conductor always seems to ignore them and come straight to me. Anyway, if everyone had to pay cash each time (no passes) I can only imagine they would need more conductors during rush hours.

And wouldn't you still make money on monthly passes because people might be willing to pay more for services they probably won't max out on?

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...which is cheap for the T (uses existing service they're mandated to provide), also helps increase their total ridership, which helps increase certain streams of federal transit funding which all transit authorities receive.

That's why the old Sunday guest free program was good - very few of those Sunday guests were maxing out capacity on their services (no extra cost), and it helped increase other funding (and provided another incentive for folks to purchase passes rather than nickel and dime their transit payments each month).

(On a side note, spend some time traveling in other cities and you learn what a great and handy benefit the T's passes are. It'll be a shame if these great offerings are gutted or eliminated in the city that largely pioneered them.)

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Similarly, as of 2014, the MBTA had unfunded pension and
compensation liabilities of $835.5 million and retiree health
care/OPEB liabilities of $1.8 billion.
(Active employees=5,726; Retirees receiving benefits=6,371)

More retirees than employees. So IOW the MBTA is basically a retirement program that happens to provide public transit as a side-business.

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This is (unfortunately) not uncommon. In the early/middle of the 20th century, a lot of industries gave their workers generous pensions, ironically as an argument against communism. ("Look, industry can take care of workers - we don't need big government doing it!") But if they didn't think those pension commitments through, eventually they swamped the company. Bethlehem Steel is just one example - they no longer exist as a company anymore, the business entity which used to run a steel mill is now just a shell for the pension fund of its former workers.

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Charlie loves him some Pioneer Institute, and the Pioneer Institute gets funding from various Koch holes.

This is chapter 1 of the playbook for destroying your middle class and unions: create an unnecesary "unfixable" crisis, replace the leadership with receivership followed by looting and ravaging and union busting.

Laugh all you want - Massachusetts is their latest target for all the wonderful things that have happened in Michigan, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Pioneer_Institute_for_Public_Policy...

Watch for Charlie Baker to claim that our public education system is too broken and he needs unchallenged power to bust unions there, too.

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Damn girl, you just didn't drink the kool-aid but chugged the whole punchbowl.

Seriously how many people complaining here have bothered to read the entire report?

It sums up everything known to be wrong with the MBTA for decades now.

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Didn't your mother ever tell you to FOLLOW THE MONEY? Just google "Pioneer Institute" and "ALEC" or "Koch Brothers". No kool-aid there.

This is an all-out war on the middle class. Just because they've managed to dupe you into some auto-immune frenzy against your fellow citizens and your own best interests with a cooked-to-order report doesn't make Baker's ties to ALEC any less clear.

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And left-wing groups are funded by the likes of George Soros and Warren Buffet. Pointing to boogeymen behind the scenes is just a distraction.

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...that Gov. Baker is a Koch sucker?

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Puppet. They want him to show his face.

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I say bring it on.

It sucks the way it is now.

So lets see how it is with some changes. If it sucks, go back to the way it is.

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I am not anti-union by a long shot but, from what I read, it appears that the MBTA union(s) have some 'splaining to do.

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Baker is going to try to do in Massachusetts what Walker did to Wisconsin.

It has nothing to do with the specific situation, just the ease with which he can implement the ALEC policy plans to bust unions.

That's what people need to understand here: this is a manufactured crisis (or, at least, a massively inflated one) and this "report" is merely a pretense to gain the powers needed to try to nullify collective bargaining. The MBTA is simply an easy place to start the war on the middle class.

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Or are you getting this from you tin-foil thinking cap?

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I'm sure even an anon can work it.

Try these searches:

Pioneer Institute Charlie Baker
Pioneer Institute ALEC
Pioneer Institute Koch Brothers

and for fun ...

Koch Brothers Ilse Koch

Then I suggest:
Scott Walker ALEC unions
Wisconsin economy
Kansas economy

(oh, and my original post had a link to where the money flows, dear)

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I am a working class man. Why should i give a fig about what those who have more than I have to "endure?"

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Exactly!!! This is happening in states all over the country. Union busting, plain and simple. Trying to break into teachers' pensions as well. They'll use any excuse to lay the blame at the workers' feet.

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I'm not exactly sure how strike provisions work for 589 and I think any strike would be illegal, but if the T unions wanted to impress upon the populace the importance of the transportation network, a strike would be an interesting tactic. There hasn't been a transit strike in Boston since 1982 when, apparently, the city devolved in to traffic chaos. Something like 75% of commuter rail riders (about 45,000 people) have access to cars and take the train instead. Let's assume that another 100,000 rail riders have the same. If you try and double or triple the number of cars coming in to Boston 93 on a Friday afternoon in the summer is going to look like a cakewalk. Uber will surge and we'll see what a privatized transportation system looks like: only the rich can get anywhere, and not quickly, either.

Charlie would probably wind up sitting in traffic as his Statie chauffer tried to navigate gridlock on 1A. (Gone are the good old days when Duke rode the T—and, yes, I certainly fault Patrick for not walking a few blocks and taking the Red Line in to the State House.) Remember the traffic-pocalypses of February? Part of that was due to narrow, snowy streets. But a lot of it was due to many more people driving, and nowhere for the cars to go. So, yeah, see how far you can push 589. If they see union busting coming down the pike (or, er, the rails) they might strike back.

And if they message it right, they might have a lot of the riders on their side.

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"criticizes the T for offering pass holders higher discounts than other transit agencies"

I hope this criticism doesn't extend to the commuter rail. Per mile, Boston's commuter rail passes are the most expensive in the United States.

Maybe if they could figure out how to run more efficiently (no more 4-person crews on off-peak trains that only have 1 car open), they could reduce fares *and* reduce the required subsidy.

And I haven't compared the data, but the T commuter rail's abysmal mean distance between failures of about 5000 miles could be the worst in the country as well. Yesterday's major failure on the Fitchburg Line might be the last straw that drives me to buy a car.

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Page 11 of the report gives the details of what they were comparing; it's only subway and bus fares vs. passes they looked at.

Did you see today's news about the recent fire at Forest Hills potentially putting CR signalling equipment out of commission for months? It's like a transit system in a third-world country.

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Apparently that was a driver effing up yesterday that burned holes 3" deep in the rails (I've seen pictures). Basically, he set the parking brake, pressed down on the regular brake and then tried to floor the train. Do that in your car and the wheels smoke a lot. Do it on a train and the wheels spin around, get real hot and melt the rail. Apparently said driver is no longer in the employ of the railroad.

Kudos to the track crews for getting the whole thing operable in a couple hours.

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That sounds interesting -could you share some of those pictures?

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Thanks for the explanation. Where did you hear it?

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Did anyone see this?

The control board would “aggressively” oversee the MBTA’s costs and revenues, develop short- and long-term capital and operating plans, have the power to restructure the MBTA and “reinvent the labor-management and contract relationships” of the organization, “invest heavily in system and fleet modernization,” and more.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2015/04/08/mbta-report-ca...

1. Use the mean instead of the median. Get some skewed statistics that show employees "abusing" their benefits as an excuse. 2. Blame the problems on the employees. 3. Break the unions.

This is a Republican governor's wet dream, and a huge hit for labor in this state.

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is not going to lie with the unions, though. Not anymore. That's why this absenteeism thing is so front and center.

Say what you want about the Baker people, but I will say this - they seem to be covering their bases (and tuchases) very well here.

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They are covering their asses, but they are cooking the numbers to inflate their case for a takeover and nullification of collective bargaining.

FMLA is not "absenteeism". Neither is short-term disability (or taking sick days built up over the years in lieu of short-term disability).

This isn't about improving the T at all, in any way. This is about disrupting collective bargaining. It won't stop with the MBTA.

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The books seem cooked on this one.

Wait until they come out with the guy who took FMLA because his kid had cancer. The commission is playing with fire on this one.

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...589 and their allies are sharpening some pencils right now.

The interesting thing will be to see how this plays with the other side on Beacon Hill. These unions have some powerful allies, there will be some fireworks before Baker's able to go all "Scott Walker" on us.

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Since this post was updated today. I'll comment.

Funny how you mention Public Schools above.. I saw this on twitter this morning from Chris Faraone.

https://digboston.com/dear-boston-media-please-steal-this-article/

But the point I want you to see is :

One week from today, DigBoston is going to publish an expose on Boston Public Schools, and about how questionable outside operators—all of whom have ties to parties poised to further privatize Hub schools—are swooping in to take control of BPS institutions, their movements hidden between budget lines in a virtually untraceable manner. The story will include such marquee local characters as Reverend Shaun Harrison, the former English High School dean who is accused of shooting one of his students in the head, as well as John Fish himself, and a number of other business heavyweights. Juicy stuff, and the best part is I’m willing to share everything, all my notes and contacts, beforehand with any publication that asks. I don’t care if they scoop me—any hack who wants to see my files can just drop me an email.

Not sure what he means, but I find it funny that he mentions something about privatizing schools, which kinda was what you were saying yesterday to Baker and this being the beginning of the attack on the middle class (a la Wisconsin).

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Sick days shouldn't be allowed to accumulate. I hope they remove this from future versions of the contract.

Not only does it cost the T a lot, it also means people who get sick end up losing money (the very thing paid sick leave is supposed to prevent), since they get paid for fewer unused sick days when they retire.

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"...the MBTA prepares 1 and 5 year operating plans
that rely primarily on own-source revenue and cost containment to
balance the agency’s budget."

Own-source revenue: Want to pay more to commute and park? Wait a minute, you will be.

Cost containment: Curtail T absenteeism.

But my favorite part is where the report is "Dispelling a Debt Myth", page 15, where the panel informs us that the Big Dig debt really ain't that bad folks.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, at this point.

I agree that there has to be accountability (i.e. management) changes but you can shuffle deck chairs on the Titanic all you want. It comes down to brass tacks: more money is going to be needed and all the fare increases and having folks shell out more to park is not going to do a damn bit of anything.

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... in the Mass Constitution. Time to get rid of Baker before he totally trashes the joint. And, while we are at it, we need to fix the structure of the legislature so that a schmuck elected by a relative handful of local voters can't serve as a de facto state dictator.

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Like any sort of politics.. sure we can suggest it. But it's the politicians themselves need to act on it. And they wont.

Just look at how long people have been talking about Term Limits in congress... decades and it's still not done because they just don't want it to happen because it means them and their cronies would be out of jobs so quick. And they can't let that happen...

Same with MediPot here in MA.. it was voted on, won by a large margin, and we're what year three and not one dispensary has opened yet.

Like I said above.. the politicians are only out for themselves and not their constituents.

I'm really beginning to dislike the political machine in this country as a whole, it's always just more of the same. and two steps forward, three steps back all the time.

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Once upon a time there was an engineer;
Choo-choo Charlie was his name, we hear;
He had a railroad, and he sure had fun;
He was cuttin' all the budgets
That made the trains run.
Charlie says, "love my budget-cuttin'!"
Charlie says, "it really rings my bell!"
Charlie says, "let's bust up all the unions!
As for all you commuters, you can go to hell."

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... should we sing this?

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n/t

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Having read the report, I find it surprisingly even handed. The panel is acknowledging that more funding is needed (but should be restricted or come from new sources like fares), that the legislature has hamstrung the MBTA in many respects through legislation preventing it from acting efficiently, and that serious management problems exist that must be addressed before a blank check can be written from the Commonwealth for more funding. One can debate all of the findings about adequate oversight of employees, etc., but two things jumped out at me that I found hard to ignore - (1) the MBTA has not spent nearly all of the money set aside for capital improvements each year for any of the past several years; and (2) the MBTA's tools for procurement are well out of alignment with other state agencies (much less private entities). Unless this is just fuzzy math, and the MBTA has actually spent all of its capital improvement money, it seems like there is, indeed, some low hanging fruit to be had, particularly as most people agree that the major problems with the T are related to age of equipment and facilities. Furthermore, re-aligning the procurement process to allow the T to, for example, consider "best value" in procurement is a no-brainer. The fact that it is not allowed to today, has resulted in the issues we are now seeing with the quality of the new commuter rail coaches, the past problems we have seen with the quality of the new green line cars, and likely the problems we are seeing with the procurement of the new orange and red line cars. I say let the governor take a crack at it by adopting all of their recomendations and see what happens.

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Beacon Hill created the current arrangement to avoid accountability. Which begs the question why would they want to reassert control and and be held accountable. Actually the three men in room who run the state. State reps are just along for the ride.

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because their roll-out has been perfectly calibrated to support their position.

To the casual observer/citizen (particularly one who doesn't ride the T regularly - and there really are a lot of those, fellow UHubbers!) it absolutely looks like the T's management is totally inept and the T definitely does not need more money.

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... bright young B-school marketing whizzes. Just what we need.

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1. Unsustainable Operating Budget
Since 2013, the Commonwealth has implicitly assumed responsibility for funding MBTA
operating deficits. This arrangement is not conducive to cost control and revenue generation.

This is an unacceptable long-term situation for the Commonwealth, which faces growing and
unpredictable funding requests from the MBTA (as it did prior to Forward Funding, which was
designed to remedy this situation).

The panel recommends that the MBTA prepares 1- and 5-year operating plans that rely
primarily on own-source revenue and cost containment to balance the agency’s budget, with
an identification of any un-met operating needs.

Since 2000, the MBTA has been operating on an unsustainable model of funding. It was never acceptable long-term and was unpredictable and poorly predicted but put into place anyways as Forward Funding. Thus the remedy was designed poorly and should be acknowledged as such. The 2013 funding of the operating deficit *IS* that acknowledgement and your solution of the MBTA trying to file a budget that remains within the sales tax cap (a nonsensical standard to forcibly stuff a public transit agency inside of) is exactly the OPPOSITE of that even in the face of the evidence YOU provide that doing so has ALREADY proven not to work!

What do you think was responsible for the ruination of the MBTA between 2000 and 2013 that ultimately led to a state bailout in 2013? Even the Pioneer Institute got that right when it recognized that the debt refinancing was the only thing keeping the MBTA afloat for so long without help. Your answer to the current predicament is to pretend that everything was fine up until 2013 when the state started bailing the MBTA out as opposed to the fact that it was 2000 that STARTED the downward spiral! Returning to the ideas of 2000 are NOT the answer...but it's the answer that you gave here!

Furthermore, you're system comparisons and monthly pass rate comparisons are not justifiable. All of your zoned trips are about 8 miles apart whereas 8 miles would get you from Newton to North Station. 8 miles gets you out of the city of Boston in almost every direction on the MBTA. How does that adequately add up to the average ride on the MBTA? Why would your take away be that monthly passes are too discounted and not that the subway's one-fare rate should be tiered since nearly all of your comparisons are to tiered systems?

Calling the CA/T debt "diminishing in importance" is a here-and-now ignorance of the history that led to the billions in debt that you attribute to mismanagment! BECAUSE of the CA/T debt service, the funds provided by Forward Funding could not be spent on the transit system and had to go to the debt THUS LEADING TO MORE DEBT! This sort of ignorance of history speaks volumes about your ability to understand the issues on which you've been tasked to solve.

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First order of business: The 8th of April will henceforth be known as "PowerPoint Day" and will be a fully paid holiday for all the well-connected worthies who are fortunate enough to be appointed to the "Fiscal and Management Control Board".

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I was going to keep rebutting all of their points, but Aloisi does a more succinct job of it and highlights a replacement for this commission's plan that actually solves problems. So, read that piece. That's largely similar to the points I wanted to make.

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Contact ILL Interlibrary Loan services at a branch public library or college library for a very useful Massachusetts FOI book...
Freedom of Information and Public Records Law in Massachusetts...

Rebecca S Murray; Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc.
Publisher: Boston, MA : Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc., ©2012.
Edition/Format: Print book : English : 3rd ed. 2012

Freedom of information and public records law in Massachusetts : a discussion of the mechanics of the public records law and the impact of the law's application

http://www.worldcat.org/title/freedom-of-information-and-public-records-...

http://www.mcle.org/product/catalog/code/2120290B03

Rebecca S. Murray
Assistant Director/Associate Legal Counsel
National Voter Registration Act NVRA Coordinator Elections Division
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1705
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Phone: 617-727-2828
Fax: 617-742-3238
http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/cfsdd/madir.htm

see also
http://muckrock.com

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