Shrinking to greatness: Baker’s legacy on the T

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.



Discuss

30 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. CHARLIE FAKA CONSERVATISM...

    ” Don’t tell me what your values are. Show me your budget and I’ll tell YOU what your values are. ” JOE BIDEN

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  2. Weekend Service is critical

    I used it to get to work when we had weekend events for the Chelsea campaign, to visit folks back in Cambridge or my folks in Wakefield. Now I’m a lower middle class white kid-I could’ve budgeted for a used car but ultimately decided against it. But those lines were a lifeline for workers getting to and from the city to weekend jobs on the North Shore or vice a versa.

    For retired people safely coming into the city by train instead of driving. And if you do that in the Fall you’ll stop trainloads of tourists from visiting Salem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayor Driscoll is one of the most vocal opponents of this. Not to mention everyone going to the beaches further down the line in the summer. Just short sighted and dumb-and I’m sure other riders on other lines have similar stories. I loved the commuter rail-it’s the one aspect of Boston transit more reliable and comfortable than Chicago’s (though allow beer on train and you’ll raise revenue and ridership!)

  3. Agreed

    It’s a complete disgrace the way he and sadly too many predecessors (and the legislator) continue to either just to cut or play kick the can down the road rather than work to re-build the MBTA.

    Public transit is a hub of a vibrant and economically dynamic community. It is depended upon by many people and when there are changes in services, routes, etc it directly and negatively impacts jobs and the economy!

  4. Indeed

    Clearly the issues are because the administration did not ask the legislature for more funding.

    If only there were some branch of government with some influence over budgetary matters in the control of a liberal, progressive party that could take some initiative on this issue.

  5. If anything we need MORE weekend service.

    At least on the Lowell Line, trains leave Lowell every other hour and return on the alternate hours. Unless your reason for being in Boston happens to jive nicely with the train schedule it makes more sense to drive since traffic is light, at least as far as Sullivan Square or Alewife depending on your exact destination.

  6. Thank you, Charlie

    I wanted to write a diary about this but am just too spittin’ mad.

    It seems to me that we have made zero progress on mass transit in the last 30 years. Why is that?

    • That the majority of the Democrats elected to the legislature, and particularly its leadership, are quite actively hostile to the MBTA, which made it a convenient place to stuff all of the debt to finance the central artery project.

      And that this has been the case for decades.

      • And that's why

        … they should be compelled to ride it.

      • bingo

        Exactly on both counts.

      • That's always been counterintuitive to me.

        Since the MBTA serves the half of the state with the largest population and since legislators are apportioned by population, it would seem a majority represent districts which would benefit from MBTA service.

      • And ...

        The “Democrats” who are the heart of that anti-MBTA hysteria are from western MA — where they force the draconian budget cuts and delusional resistance to taxes on the wealthy that force horrific government policy like this.

        These “Democrats” apparently believe that if only they could kill the MBTA, cities like Springfield and Pittsfield will somehow come back to life. They have long formed an unholy alliance with equally delusional Massachusetts Republicans.

        They are apparently getting their wish. Apparently we must destroy Massachusetts before we can “save” it.

        • Evidence, Tom?

          I don’t think that’s the case at all. The Western Mass delegation is one of the more liberal delegations. Stan Rosenberg is from Western Mass. Eric Lesser is talking about increasing MBTA coverage, not cutting it for Boston.

          • Checking ...

            I’m referring to support for Mr. DeLeo, silence in response to Deval Patrick’s effort to address the issue, and so on.

            An issue that results from the power of Mr. DeLeo is that effective legislative responses to the crisis never even make the floor for a vote. There is thus no explicit voting record to point at.

            Western MA is large. Parts of it are quite liberal, yes. Other parts are not.

            I’m looking for some cites, but I do have a day-job. :(

            • Hampshire County is liberal.

              Berkshire County is liberal. I’m not familiar with Franklin Counties reps and senators. We’re large, but the population is sparse.

              First Hampden Todd Smola Republican
              Second Hampden Brian Ashe Democratic
              Third Hampden Nicholas Boldyga Republican
              Fourth Hampden John C. Velis Democratic
              Fifth Hampden Aaron Vega Democratic
              Sixth Hampden Michael Finn Democratic
              Seventh Hampden Thomas Petrolati Democratic
              Eighth Hampden Joseph Wagner Democratic
              Ninth Hampden Jose Tosado Democratic
              Tenth Hampden Carlos Gonzalez Democratic
              Eleventh Hampden Bud L. Williams Democratic
              Twelfth Hampden Angelo Puppolo, Jr. Democratic

              First Hampshire Peter Kocot Democratic
              Second Hampshire John Scibak Democratic
              Third Hampshire Solomon Goldstein-Rose Democratic

              First Franklin Stephen Kulik Democratic
              Second Franklin Susannah Whipps Lee Republican

              First Berkshire Gailanne Cariddi Democratic
              Second Berkshire Paul Mark Democratic
              Third Berkshire Tricia Farley-Bouvier Democratic
              Fourth Berkshire William Pignatelli Democratic

              SENATE

              Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Adam G. Hinds Democratic
              First Hampden and Hampshire Eric Lesser Democratic
              Second Hampden and Hampshire Donald F. Humason, Jr. Republican
              Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Stanley Rosenberg Democratic

            • Hampshire County is liberal.

              Berkshire County is liberal. I’m not familiar with Franklin Counties reps and senators. We’re large, but the population is sparse.

              First Hampden Todd Smola Republican
              Second Hampden Brian Ashe Democratic
              Third Hampden Nicholas Boldyga Republican
              Fourth Hampden John C. Velis Democratic
              Fifth Hampden Aaron Vega Democratic
              Sixth Hampden Michael Finn Democratic
              Seventh Hampden Thomas Petrolati Democratic
              Eighth Hampden Joseph Wagner Democratic
              Ninth Hampden Jose Tosado Democratic
              Tenth Hampden Carlos Gonzalez Democratic
              Eleventh Hampden Bud L. Williams Democratic
              Twelfth Hampden Angelo Puppolo, Jr. Democratic

              First Hampshire Peter Kocot Democratic
              Second Hampshire John Scibak Democratic
              Third Hampshire Solomon Goldstein-Rose Democratic

              First Franklin Stephen Kulik Democratic
              Second Franklin Susannah Whipps Lee Republican

              First Berkshire Gailanne Cariddi Democratic
              Second Berkshire Paul Mark Democratic
              Third Berkshire Tricia Farley-Bouvier Democratic
              Fourth Berkshire William Pignatelli Democratic

              SENATE

              Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Adam G. Hinds Democratic
              First Hampden and Hampshire Eric Lesser Democratic
              Second Hampden and Hampshire Donald F. Humason, Jr. Republican
              Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Stanley Rosenberg Democratic

        • Actually...

          …if we could EXPAND MBTA commuter service to the far-flung parts of the state, wouldn’t THAT contribute to bringing such places back to life?

          • MBTA interested?

            As I said before, the town of BOURNE voted to join the MBTA years ago, but Boston refuses to provide services. Likewise train service other than weekend summer service which is convenient for golfing legislators but not for anything like a commuter or regular rider.

            • Boston?

              The MBTA isn’t “Boston” — did you mean that the MBTA refuses to provide services?

              Regarding commuter rail to the Cape, I thought that weekend-only service was the compromise because lots on the Cape don’t want weekday service, lest South Shore residents who work in Boston move to the Cape. Yes/no?

              • I interpreted Boston...

                …as a stand in for state government, kind of like we often refer to the federal government as simply “Washington”.

              • Why would we not want it?

                Because we ENJOY driving up Rt. 3 every day? We WANT a daily 4 hour commute to Boston? We LIKE a daily bus cost of $56 to $36 round trip? We WANT people with disabilities to be marooned away from health care?

                There were a couple of jackass former judges in Hingham who bought property abutting a rail line. They knew the tracks were there, and that they were not decommisioned. THEY did not want trains going by their post homes, and fought it in court for years.

                So yeah, those 4 South Shore residents didn’t want it.

                They lost.

                • Have you told Charlie Baker this?

                  He won’t listen to us moonbats on BMG but he might listen to a former RSC member. We need more government not less to fund these trains and I think you should advocate for that rail you want.

                • Talk to your friends

                  Bourne Selectmen Address Railroad Concerns

                  Republicans Want Bourne to Consider Nixing MBTA Membership

                  To be clear, I support mass transportation, to be deployed fairly and wisely and prioritized around need, benefit, social justice concerns, and yadda yadda. I’m not opposed to weekday Cape service. I’m just reporting what I heard from a friend who works a white collar job at the T and who weekends on the Cape. It is my understanding that it was his understanding that lots of folks on the Cape opposed weekday commuter rail because they felt the commuter rail would encourage folks moving from Boston Metro to the Cape, thereby changing the way of life. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong… I brought it up because I don’t have any idea what the feel is down in those parts.

        • Western Mass: No

          Western Mass., which is always overlooked precisely because its population is too small to have legislative clout (Quabbin, Shay’s Rebellion, Springfield), did not suddenly develop legislative clout in relation to just this issue.

          We must look elsewhere if we want to understand and change the pattern in which we are stuck.

  7. Baker has backed off this

    WBUR reported today that he plans to keep weekend service, after the public outcry.

  8. CHARLIE FAKA HAS HIS FINGER IN THE WIND

    when it’s not otherwise occupied. :)

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

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