The real takeaway from this week’s debacle, in my view, is the enormous tax increase (probably billions of dollars) that Massachusetts government imposed on residents and businesses this week without debate, discussion, or even media coverage. What, you didn’t hear about it? Of course not.
I’m talking about the billions of dollars taken from residents and businesses in the form of lost wages and lost business as a result of DAYS of MBTA collapse after a typical Massachusetts winter storm (with several more already in the pipeline for the next week or two).
My company, headquartered in Austin TX and with a Boston team of about a dozen employees, canceled our regular Wednesday face-to-face workday on Newbury Street (we rent shared office space one day a week). We did that because all of us depend on the MBTA. Even if we wanted to drive (which we don’t), there is no parking. And, of course, the parade puts the icing on the cake. So our team will not buy lunch today in a Newbury Street restaurant. We will not stop to pick anything up at CVS on our way to or from work. We will not pick up coffee in the morning or libations after work. This, after missing last week because of the blizzard. We are reconsidering whether it makes sense to continue renting space that we cannot use (we already telecommute the rest of the week).
I suggest that my team’s reaction is reasonably typical. We are watching Boston commit suicide, by making it impossible to do business in the city. The question, in my view, is whether Beacon Hill can and will respond in time to save it.
Here is the text of this morning’s (4-Feb-2015) MBTA “Severe Weather Update” (body emphasis mine):
What to expect when winter weather hits.
While service has improved since yesterday, please expect impacts to service on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, on all subway and Commuter Rail lines. Decades-old equipment may experience mechanical issues. Switches and signals may also be adversely affected by frigid temperatures. Passengers utilizing MBTA service to and from the Patriots’ Parade should visit our events page for more details.
Buses will continue to replace Mattapan Trolley service between Ashmont and Mattapan stations from start to end of service on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. Because RIDE service will be affected by road conditions, paratransit customers are urged to stay in contact with their specific service provider.
Please expect longer wait times, plan for extra travel time, and dress appropriately. We encourage customers to check for the most current service information before starting their commutes. Service information can be found at the MBTA’s winter resource hub: mbta.com/winter. Customers are also urged to check T-Alerts regularly for updates or to join our nearly 99,000 followers on Twitter @MBTA. For Commuter Rail updates, we ask commuters to follow the MBTA Commuter Rail on Twitter @MBTA_CR.
The levels of accumulated snowfall will make it difficult for customers to maneuver their vehicles around MBTA parking lots, particularly in the afternoon and evening. Work crews will try very hard to keep the lots’ travel lanes and exits clear, but heavy snow will accumulate in the immediate areas around vehicles occupying spaces. Customers are strongly encouraged to consider these factors if using MBTA parking lots on Wednesday. The Commuter Rail parking garage at Beverly Station is near capacity. Please plan your alternative parking arrangements accordingly.
We thank our loyal customers for their patience and understanding.
Updated: 6 a.m., Feb 4, 2015
I note that at 8:30a, the “alerts” link reports that ALL subway lines — blue, green, orange, and red — are “experiencing delays”.
This is two days after a run-of-the-mill (for Boston) January snowstorm.
Our legislators, on both sides of the aisle, say we “can’t afford” the taxes needed to put the MBTA back onto a reliable and sustainable footing. Funny how nobody wants to talk about the actual cost of the resulting inaction. I hope that somebody is crunching the numbers — I’m guessing we are, together, spending up to ten times as much to NOT fix the MBTA as we would have invested if Governor Patrick’s 2012 proposal had been approved.
Of course, we now have to do BOTH — we have to invest in solving the problem, and we have to pay the price for NOT investing earlier. This is precisely the same combination that makes using credit cards to pay regular bills so destructive. Eventually, the family hits the credit limit. The bills must still be paid, and debt service on the maxed-out credit line is added to that burden. We Democrats chose to do nothing and say nothing during the recent gubernatorial campaign (is this an exquisitely subtle plan to embarrass the incoming Baker administration?).
Will we who still have absolute control over the legislature actually DO anything to address this problem?
Or will we continue to party on with Super Bowl parades and Olympic fantasies?