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Wu's free-fare pilot might face possible pothole in federal transit regulations
By adamg on Tue, 12/14/2021 - 8:22pm
CommonWealth reports the Wu administration is trying to figure out how to deal with a Federal Transit Administration rule that seems to limit transit pilots to six months before they have to be shut down or funded permanently. Two weeks ago, the City Council approved Wu's proposal to spend $8 million to provide free boarding on three bus routes - in a pilot that would run two years.
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But, but, but
(I am laughing so hard right now).
Haven't read the regs, but it could be argued
that this is technically a City budget expenditure, so nothing to see here. harumph harumph. If the EMK Institute could be built with money taken from Defense, to build a shrine, and also give a big wet kiss to Local 7, then form over substance rules. Give the worker bees a break for two years. It may very well prove what some economists have been saying for 50 years, that public transit should be free, at least for basic service in the city core.
This Was A Huge Part of Her Platform
Yet, nobody at her campaign decided to see if it was legal. If they did look into it before the election and found out that they couldn't do it, then they did this thing called lying.
Michelle Wu got elected because 1. She wasn't from Dorchester. 2. She wasn't from Dorchester, and 3. She appeared to be a different type of person that people are used too running for office. Only problem is that the style was was put forward over substance. That's not governing. That's running for class president.
Even the Globe the week before the election meekly started to hint that things she was promising (like rent control) probably, well actually, couldn't get done but it was too late. The Wutrain was on its way.
Michelle Wu is not a political novice and should have been more transparent in this matter. I want the free bus to work but like the eviction moratorium resolution at the beginning of Covid, compassion (i.e. looking for votes) was endorsed over the law, and in the end compassion, albeit well placed, was shown to be against the law.
Mayor Wu held a press event the other day about space savers while some DPW people stood around. Mayor, the bike lane in American Legion Highway is choked with leaves. There are people who don't want to get killed by drag racers on ALH while they are riding their bikes. Have the DPW people get rid of the leaves instead of holding a presser. That's governing.
Ed Markey has four+ years left. If she wants to prove herself ready for that job, perhaps read up on one of the central tenets of your platform first to see it will actually work.
The inability to waive her hands and get rent control or a free T was something she and everyone else was 100% open about during the entire campaign. It was the #1 talking point of AEG, not something ignored.
Wu promised to try and change things. AEG promised to not even try.
There is nothing "illegal" about the plan to subsidize a few busses. At most, it will go through a bit more bureaucracy. Looking ahead, with a likely Democrat as governor, a (partially) free T is a real possibility.
Wu won because people didn't think she'd be worse than the status quo and there was a chance she'd be better. AEG lost because her campaign promise was to maintain the status quo, nothing more. It's that simple.
... is growing increasingly tiresome. You're not as bad as notfromboston - yet - but you're doing your best to catch up.
Mocking Wu’s failure to “free the T” is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Why is it a failure to try
Why is it a failure to try and help the working man ? What makes you so happy to take joy at mocking people. How about proposing a solution... like maybe having the program expire after 5 months and 29 days and then have a revised program start a couple of days after that. Rinse and repeat.
What politician ever
What politician ever accomplished their ambitious goals after one month in office, genius?
I’d be willing to bet
You started shitcanning the previous President of the United States a lot less than a month after his swearing in.
As it stands with Wu, her pledge was to “free the T”. I give her 4 years to fail in delivering me a free commute from Roslindale in town. Costello was just noting that it would appear her short term plan was failing. I think it can be pulled off, but she hasn’t been saying “some free buses” for the past 3 years, so I will judge her on her pledge.
"Shooting fish in a barrel"
"Shooting fish in a barrel" is debate skill ranking, so have at it.
Counter arguments are not schtick.
Just because you are a wee angry over not being told over what you want to hear or what you think is something and it isn't, doesn't mean it is schtick.
Please remove your head from your rear and realize that. Thanks.
Didn't the T already have this problem?
With the all-you-can-ride weekend rail pass which was pretty popular pre-pandemic.
As I recall they made a slight tweak to the program to relaunch it before finally making it permanent.
There are simple workarounds.
Almost as if it wasn’t well conceived?
Glad the crack media members in town fleshed that out during the campaign.
The answer is seemingly simple
Ask Transportation Secretary Pete for a waiver, given the proposal is based on a federal grant. Kansas City is funding their transit system with Covid grants. If they have to keep on having free transit when the funding source goes away, they may no have a transit system much longer.
Kansas City's free transit
Kansas City's free transit system is barely a system. It's a single 2 mile streetcar loop.
They run a bus system, which is transit (despite what the bus haters here would think) and is being funded by Covid relief money. They are funding their buses the same way Wu wants to fund 3 bus lines in Boston.
How to deal
Tell the feds that you'll advise Bostonians not to pay federal taxes.
Can we wait until the full
Can we wait until the full inaguration in January until criticizing the new administration?
Help could be at hand
You might have heard that Wu was in Washington this week for a mayor's get-together at the White House. She didn't just pose with Mahty.
Article misinterprets federal guidance
The article misinterprets and misreports federal guidance. The MBTA can make any routes they want free, they just have to do extra paperwork. This is all about politics (i.e., some people at the T don't want to go fare-free) and has nothing to do with the logistics of actually making the bus free.
The "snag" is someone has to write an extra report, called a fare equity analysis. The FTA doesn't have to act on that report. They can just file it away.
Few know the rules
We can complain that Wu's staff didn't know the regulations all we want but the fact is almost no individual has a grasp of the number of rules and regulations that railroads, and transit systems face.
The question is whether it was a pilot or if this was a city paying the fares up front. It's a "to-may-to vs to-mah-to" situation.
I'm reminded of the not-so-far-back press coverage of the horn dilemma in Waltham. Trains were not sounding horns at some crossings because of a federal rule waiver. However on routine inspection the feds found the crossings were not the right type or were not upgraded to proper standards, so the order went out to sound the horns. Of course the people that moved in along that stretch of track did not have full disclosure regarding what they were moving next to, or what the conditions were, so when the order to restore horns went in they went berserk.
Lots of that happening around Boston these days. People moving in to areas with known city noise factors and then they complain. Either you didn't visit the area to check it out or your real estate agent sold you that half-million dollar lemon and blew town. And failure to sound the horns can get a train operator fired, fined, and even brought up on federal charges. Guess what. They will sound the horn.
It's not as easy as it looks.
The broader issue will be getting enough operators to run the system. The current bus route cut backs are the tip of the iceberg. Forget about overtime. Federal rules also govern how many hours a driver can operate safely, then have a specific amount of time off the job.
What's the process for making
What's the process for making it "permanent"?
Of course nothing is truly permanent. Though maybe there would be more bureaucracy to end it if it's not a pilot.
You’re missing the issue
The feds have a specific definition of a pilot program, which is six months or less. Make it more and of course you can eliminate it, but you have to prove that the elimination is within the bounds of equity.