Charlie Baker was handed a crisis at the T, and made much noise in taking it on, which has consisted mostly of privatization schemes and cuts. So long, late night T service … and now weekend commuter rail.
What’s left? Last Tuesday, with no weather provocation at all, SEVEN lines of the commuter rail were reporting cancellations. On Friday, more cancellations on SIX lines. And while it’s certainly not related, the Baker administration chooses a ruefully funny time to announce commuter rail weekend service cuts for a year (one hopes). The beatings will continue until morale improves …
Supposedly these cuts are to free up $187 million to spend on capital projects. But isn’t this very obviously self-cannibalization in the face of a universally-acknowledged funding shortfall? And yet the administration will not ask the legislature for more funding.
Fortunately there does seem to be pushback from the MBTA control board itself:
The scope of the proposal spurred swift opposition. Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents the communities that receive MBTA service, urged officials to reconsider scuttling weekend commuter rail service.
“I know it’s a tempting target, but [service] is as necessary on the weekends as it is during the day,” he said. “There are people who rely on it.”
The board approved a preliminary budget for the next fiscal year, but made it clear the proposed service cuts are not a certainty. A final budget is due April 15.
“At this point, I would not vote for this as a budget,” said Brian Lang, a board member.
You can’t shrink your way to greatness. But the Baker administration seems determined to shrink, nonetheless. I’m old enough to remember when Stephanie Pollack was supposed to be the transit advocate in the administration. Under Baker the T seems to be in a death spiral typical of Republican governance, shrinking to the size that it can be drowned in the bathtub.
This is the opposite of what we need. Imagine a thriving MBTA: Reliable, fast, resilient, pervasive, interconnected, accessible, clean, and safe. It should be a resource for everyone, rich, poor, and everyone in-between alike.
The T is a keystone of Greater Boston and the Commonwealth. A thriving T provides for a strong economy; for economic justice; for the geographic expansion of prosperity, especially south- and west- of Boston; for affordable housing; for carbon emissions reduction; and just for quality of life. Being on a fast, reliable train is pretty darned good — better than being stuck in traffic on 93, the Southeast Expressway, or the Pike.
“Vision” is just a fancy word for long-term planning. The Baker administration, for all its purported cleverness and bean-counting perspicacity, leaves the region with no hope that things will ever get better. Any decent Democratic governor would do a better job.