Transportation

(You know, I had this idea that Cahill was a pretty good treasurer who didn't really have the vision to be governor. Ah well. - promoted by Charley on the MTA)

On June 18th, the State Legislature passed the FY 2010 Budget and sent it to Governor Deval Patrick for his approval. The Budget calls for an increase of the state sales tax to 6.25% generating an additional $900 million per year.

Out of this amount, the Legislature is allocating only $275 million towards transportation as a whole with only about $160 million going specifically to the MBTA to address its financial crisis.  In these next 24-48 hours, Governor Patrick will have to make his decision on the budget and make some very difficult choices that will affect the future of public transportation in the Commonwealth.  

Everyone who has examined this issue – legislators, MBTA officials, community groups, advocacy organizations, environmentalists and the business community – acknowledge that the $160 million is not adequate.

While I would not trivialize the complexities surrounding our state transportation woes, I do believe that the State Legislature and the Governor have the power to reach a better solution.  As an elected official in Boston, I felt that it was critical to advocate on behalf of the city’s residents and those who cannot advocate for themselves.  

That is why I sent a letter to the Governor that urges him to shore up our public transportation system and add additional monies for the MBTA.  I wanted to take a moment to share with you this letter and will certainly let you know if I do receive any kind of response.  

Dear Governor Patrick,

As you make final reviews to the state’s FY2010 budget, I urge you to make the necessary amendments to ensure that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will not have to raise fares or cut services and also to ensure that the MBTA Advisory Board does not lose its current powers.  At a time when our constituents are facing layoffs and other harsh realities of the economic downturn, we cannot support policies that impose additional burdens on them.

When I decided to run for Mayor, I pledged to myself and the people of Boston that I would run a different type of campaign – a campaign that solicited the ideas and concerns of residents.  My visits across the city and into each neighborhood have afforded me a greater understanding of the  economic challenges they face and the strategies they have employed to tighten their belts and make ends meet.  They have shared with me their concerns over increased taxes and stagnant wages.  

Their economic concerns also extend to the potential reduction of MBTA services and increase in MBTA fares.  The state’s own Transportation Secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr, has publicly indicated that despite the $160 million included in the FY10 state budget, the MBTA will still need to raise fares 15 to 20 percent and possibly trim services due to overwhelming debt.  Implementing such a fee hike would be the fourth fare increase imposed on MBTA riders in the last 8 years and would have a major impact on hundreds of thousands of Bostonians who are low-income and transit-dependent.  

I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the potential fare increase and reduced service will also adversely affect the state’s ability to meet its carbon emission reduction goals.  By making the MBTA services less convenient and affordable, more residents will once again have to rely on their cars as the vehicle of choice and ultimately create more harmful pollution and congestion.

Equally as important as preserving affordable access to public transportation is maintaining the powers of the MBTA Advisory Board who have traditionally provided an appropriate level of oversight and consumer advocacy trusted by riders.  In the wake of the scandals that have come to light over the last few years and the corresponding outcries for greater transparency, we should make sure that the public continues to have a Board that, at minimum, questions suspect tactics to fill budget gaps on the backs of residents and riders.

On behalf of Boston residents, commuters and taxpayers, I ask you to send back the Legislature a budget that restores the powers of the Advisory Board and makes greater investment in the state’s public transportation system so that service cuts and increased fares can be avoided.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Flaherty

Boston At-Large City Councilor

In the meantime, I welcome your feedback on this issue, and would like to know how you think we can improve the lifeline of our city; the MBTA.

An obvious service improvement is the extension of MBTA operation hours. Many residents work the night shift, and have expressed a desire for public transportation to and from work.

Many of these people do not feel safe traveling by themselves late at night, so it is important that we take steps to resolve this issue. Other cities have instituted late night train services with a slight fare increase. Would you be willing to pay a service fee for T service until 2:30 or 3:00 am? Do you feel that offering this service would be worthwhile, and ultimately beneficial to the people of Boston?

Also, how do you think we could use the MBTA to help facilitate the transportation of our city’s student population? Our school transportation budget is nearly $80 million and I believe there is a way to utilize the existing  public transportation infrastructure to reduce cost and be more efficient for our students.

-Michael Flaherty, Candidate for Mayor of Boston

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5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. What would you cut?

    Michael,

    Your spokesperson posted here on BMG saying that she and you would answer all questions.   You have called for a smaller City Hall (which I agree with) and I asked weeks ago what would you cut?  No response.

    Now you want the Governor to add funding to the MBTA, well would you cut some other program or raise taxes?  It is easy to call for programs to be fully funded, it is not so easy to fund them.

    I have asked you (and Sam Yoon) to take a leadership position by eliminating one useless job on the City Council staff that is currently vacant and has only been used to have Paul Walkowski write a report on how the City Council could avoid the Open Meeting Law.  

    If you can't even move to eliminate one useless and vacant position, how can we expect for you to squeeze out the other waste at City Hall?  

    • Kevin, why don't you answer this yourself

      Those are fair questions, but given that you are yourself a candidate, you must answer the same question.

      Are you saying that you yourself don't think the state should contribute more to the MBTA budget? I don't believe that. You have advocated for the T to build more light rail, including restoration of the E line to Forest Hills (a really bad idea in my opinion); that doesn't come for free.

      So how do you want the MBTA to get extra funds?

      [BTW, you have proposed all sorts of expansions to the city budget -- more teachers, more cops, etc. -- but have not really explained how you will pay for them except by suggesting that you can extract revenue from the BRA.]

  2. MBTA... the lifeline of the commonwealth!

    Kudos to Michael Flaherty and his valiant effort in requesting for Governor Deval Patrick to reconsider allocating additional funds to save essential services the MBTA provides for residents of Massachusetts. Without the T many residents in Boston and surrounding areas will be left without accessible transportation and at this juncture we cannot afford a reduction in services during these challenging economic times. As a frequent T-rider I can attest personally how important the T is in my daily commute to Boston and neighboring areas. In light of this development I find it surprising that the incumbent Menino and challenger Yoon have not taken a pro-active step to request Governor Patrick to reconsider the pre-set transportation budget and T allotment. It is common knowledge that the state budget fate is decided by elected officials other than the mayor. However, as a liaison for their constituents the mayor can try to influence the state decision makers. It is imperative that we keep the current services and projects the T has in place. We cannot allow our state leaders to further cripple the current condition of the commonwealth in this unstable economy.  Action begat action and it is clear that Michael Flaherty is a proactive leader who is willing to address" spotlight issues" that others are not apt too. Perhaps Menino and Yoon should follow the precedent that this noteworthy candidate - Flaherty is setting. There is the adage saying, "lead by example." Clearly a lot can be gained if our state leaders can be doers and put plan into action. The commonwealth needs the T and further re-evaluation is needed of the state FY2010 budget. The MBTA is our lifeline and without it businesses and individuals will be affected in more ways than one. We all need to do our part to ensure that this "lifeline" does not "flatline" at the hands of our state leaders.  

  3. Fair Question

    I am in favor of increasing the gas tax and allocating funds to the MBTA.  I'm pleased that we are talking about 'reform before revenue' and moving health care to the state system.

    The Boston Municipal Research Bureau estimates we could save 25 million dollars in Boston if we did the same thing.   That would more than pay for the 80 police officers I'm advocating that we add to the City payroll.

    If we eliminate the BRA, take back the hundreds of millions if not billions of property they own and sell that property (that we don't need for other long term projects like roads, schools, libraries, etc.) we will bring in funds and increase the tax base.

    I will also start to eliminate positions such as the one that Yoon and Flaherty refuse to eliminate of Paul Walkowski's job of finding a way for the City Council to evade the Open Meeting law.

    Thanks, kevin

    • But selling property is a one-time gain

      I am not sure I like the idea of selling off property to balance the budget. It seems irresponsible.

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