Dear Martin Walsh,
So you’re a car guy? I am a car guy, too. I love cars. My first car was a 1976 Ford LTD I bought for $500 dollars in 1984. The back seat was bigger than my sofa is now and I paid more money for the sofa. The LTD had a 351 Cleveland V8 and it could MOVE like Tam O’Shanters mare, Meg. My dream is to restore, with my own two hands, a 1974 Mercedes SL450 convertible to mint condition and drive it daily. I love cars, for the fact that they are cars. When I want to get around Boston, however, I take the T.
Also, just like you, I was born in 1967. Not in Massachusetts, but since my mother was born here, we moved back when I was nine. What I know about foul language and heartbreak I learned in the bleachers at Fenway Park. What I know about grit I learned from watching Terry O’Reilly and Johnny Bucyk at the old Garden. What I know about food I learned in the North End at the original Joe Tecce’s. What I know about prejudice I learned walking through Dorchester with my hair in a ponytail. What I learned about Boston’s geography, I gathered by taking the T.
Living on the South Shore, on the Irish Riviera (Scituate) before I owned my own car, I used to hitchhike to Hingham (kids, don’t hitchhike… I’m lucky to be alive) to hop a bus to Braintree and take the red line into town. Even after I got my own car, I then drove to Braintree and still took the T in. I got stranded in town plenty of times, but all of those times were my own fault: I once saw Eric Clapton play a gig on Landsdowne street (Long before it was the House of Blues… long before, in fact, ‘blues’ was commoditized…) and, because I was loathe to miss a moment of his show, I missed the last train out of town. No complaints. Same thing happened when I saw B.B. King play at Berklee. It was worth it. I was young. It wasn’t so much fun when, as an older man with a family waiting for me, in the winter of 2014-15 I got stranded because the T broke and I couldn’t get home from my job. Then, two days later, it broke again and I couldn’t get from my home to my job. I’ve often had my wife and my boss angry with me, but seldom at the same time, and never due to somebody else’s failings.
All of this, Mayor Walsh, is to lay claim to being, at least, as knowledgeable about Boston as you are, ‘car guy’ and all, and maybe more so, since it appears I may have ridden the T far more than you have. And to, therefore, tell you that the MBTA is in a drastic state of disrepair. I first rode the T in 1980 and, while it’s never been perfect, it’s also never been as bad as it was in the winter of 2014-15… and improvements upon that low point have simply not been made and here we are and it’s 2017.
The T is an integral part of my life and my life is intricately bound up to the city I love best in all the world: Boston, the same city that elected you, Martin Walsh, Mayor. I need the T to work more than I need a working car… because as much as I love cars, both finding and paying for parking and traffic are far more stressful than I feel ANYONE should have to handle. And as the condition of public transit deteriorates, the traffic worsens and parking becomes a nightmare. You need me to live outside town and come to work in town and spend my money. And I love doing so… but I need the T to work to do that. Every dollar I have to spend on parking, and every minute I have to spend in traffic waiting to spend that parking money, makes me that much less inclined to spend any other money. But if I can buy a T pass once a month and use it any time… and get anywhere I want, I’m thereafter rather more profligate.
When you make casually wrong, and wrong-headed, statements about the state of the T — it really is crumbling — as you did recently, you not only diminish your credibility, but what is worse, you dishearten the millions of people who look to the Mayor and the Governor for solutions to their problems, not more problems. That I feel it necessary to explain to you how necessary is the T to the very beating heart of Boston, is equally disheartening.
Fix the T, or get out of the way and let somebody else fix it. Not fixing it, is not an option for the city and not even acknowledging how broken it is doesn’t seem to be doing much for your career.