It’s Thanksgiving time again, and in addition to giving thanks for the many things we appreciate, good health, safety, family and friends, we should also give thanks to the MBTA.
Yes, thanks to the MBTA.
Though a source of scorn and anger for many of us, including me, we should not forget what the MBTA gives us and be thankful for it.
1. The MBTA keeps the local economy moving. Low-income families that can’t afford a car keep the economy humming by riding the T to work each day. With more than one million riders daily, people across the economic strata are going to work. Unfortunately, if you don’t like your job, the MBTA cannot help with that.
2. I don’t need to own a car, thanks to the MBTA. Not owning a car saves thousands of dollars not just up front, but over the lifetime of the car. Not including the cost to purchase that vehicle, Edmunds.com estimates the popular Toyota Camry costs $28,343 over five years.
The cost of a Charlie Card “LinkPass” which allows me unlimited use of bus and subway, currently costs $59/month. Over five years that comes to $3,540, or a savings of almost $25,000. That’s a lot to be thankful for, especially in these tough economic times.
3. Parking in Boston is expensive, and gas prices seem to fluctuate more than November’s weather. In addition to the savings above, transit riders don’t need to find or pay for parking. They don’t need to pay for gas, and they don’t need to pay for insurance. Savings on the frustration of finding a parking spot alone is something to be thankful for.
4. The MBTA gets us where we need to go, usually. I can visit family and friends, as well as get to meetings on time, usually. Additionally, I thank the MBTA for being a convenient excuse when I am late to events.
5. MBTA is fun, when running properly. If you’ve never ridden in the front of a train going through a tunnel you should, and bring a kid with you. It is cheap entertainment that still brings out the kid in me. Do not, however, try this during rush hour, in the summer, immediately before a Red Sox game, in a train with a broken air conditioner.
6. The MBTA saves everybody time, not just those who use it. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, if the MBTA were to stop service an extra 26 million hours would be spent by drivers on the road, or about 12 hours per driver. That congestion would cost drivers and the economy about $573 million. Most of us don’t have that kind of money available, so I’m thankful the T has saved me and others that money through its service.
7. I’m a big fan of breathing – I try to do it every day. The MBTA makes that easier, preventing the emission of millions of pounds of carbon dioxide and other gasses each year. Remember during the hot days of summer those “air quality alerts” you heard about? Those are due in large part to auto emissions – so imagine for a moment how bad the air would be if those 20 million trips per month riding the T were in cars.
8. The only thing worse than a Boston driver is a tourist driving in Boston. They don’t know where they’re going, they don’t know where they are, and they’re taking their time on the road. On the T however, Aunt Millie can take her time enjoying the scenery without creating a three mile backup on Storrow Drive. Now that the T actually announces, clearly, each stop name, I don’t have to worry that she’s going to end up across town by mistake.
Now I know the premise that we should be thankful for the MBTA is odd, even anathema, for many. As a transit activist I recognize that I often point out the T’s failings, and there are plenty. But the reason I and others highlight the problems is because we want the MBTA to continue improving the services they already provide – and there are
many services to be thankful for this year.
Bob Terrell is Coordinator of On The Move, a coalition of nine community based
organizations in greater Boston that came together in 2002 to advocate for