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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Donoghue (and Beacon Hill) Is Very Wrong on the MBTA

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March 9, 2012

Donoghue (and Beacon Hill) Is Very Wrong on the MBTA

by at 1:44 pm.

I am totally sorrowful in having to ask this question. I really am. You all know how I like Senator Eileen Donoghue. But what I want to know is, is she going all Beacon-Hill on us? Is she now living in the Beacon Hill bubble, espousing Beacon Hill talking points, instead of offering real solutions? Because that’s what it sounded like during her March 6th appearance on WCAP where she talked about the MBTA and its chronic budget woes (begins at the 6:36 mark).

This has been bugging me for days but I finally have time to write it all out.

Teddy Panos puts the question to Donoghue, about an idea being floated by a business group that the legislature should tap into the rainy day fund to help the MBTA budget this year. While I agree with the first part of Eileen’s response, she said some things that make me very angry. Because she is smart enough to do basic math, in my opinion. Let’s start with the answer to the specific rainy day question:

I don’t really think it’s a great idea, it’s a short term fix. I don’t think the MBTA is an emergency or a one-time thing, it’s a chronic problem with the MBTA, and you still have to fix the problem.

She’s totally right, here. This isn’t just a chronic problem, it’s been a decade-long chronic problem, with the can kicked down the road again, and again. However, where she and I part ways is that she appears to be relying on pat Beacon Hill “conventional wisdom.” Her next comments:

…you still have to fix the problem. And they just seem incapable of doing it. …One of the things, when they reorganized and changed…you know, forward funding for the MBTA, over ten years ago, I think the whole notion was to give the Board authority; they also took on some debt, but give them authority to start making…system-wide changes. And that doesn’t seem to have happened. So now when the MBTA comes up short for - and again, what could be their lack of action in making real important revisions to the way they run the system - they just turn to the legislature, put out their hand, and say “give us more money.”

I think until…we hear from the MBTA, from their Board how they’re going to fix this, what kind of changes they’ve implemented, I don’t think continuing to pour money when they come up short is the solution.

God, am I disappointed in our state Senator! Donoghue even mentions the forward funding and Big Dig debt problems, but glosses over them in order to blame the Board for not coming up with a miracle solution that doesn’t involve steep, steep cuts in services or huge rate increases, or both.

Pathetic, totally Beacon-Hill pass-the-buck bullshit.

Let’s review the history of the MBTA. Shall we? In the Wiki article, we have a nice outline of what happened to the MBTA in the year 2000:

A turning point in funding occurred in 2000. Prior to July 1, 2000, the MBTA was reimbursed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for all costs above revenue collected (net cost of service). Beginning on that date, the T was granted a dedicated revenue stream consisting of amounts assessed on served cities and towns, along with a dedicated 20% portion of the 5% state sales tax.[citation needed] The MBTA now must live within this “forward funding” budget.

The Commonwealth assigned to the MBTA responsibility for increasing public transit to compensate for increased automobile pollution from the Big Dig. The T submerged a nearby portion of the Green Line and rebuilt Haymarket and North Stations during Big Dig construction. However, these projects have strained the MBTA’s limited resources, since the Big Dig project did not include funding for these improvements.

Let me repeat:

Prior to July 1, 2000, the MBTA was reimbursed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for all costs above revenue collected (net cost of service).

OK, so the MTBA has fares, advertising revenue, station-naming-rights, etc, just to name some of its incoming revenue. Let’s call that amount “Bob.” Bob is limited, in that the ad and naming rights can only fetch so much (as much as the market will bear), and, if you want to keep fares affordable (and we had one of the most affordable public transit systems in the nation, and surprise! the one with the most ridership, too) you have a limit to what you can charge for fares. Poorer people can’t pay a lot of money to move around, even though moving around is key to finding and holding jobs.

If operating and capital investment costs are Bob + 20% (a made up number, BTW, for illustration purposes), that means that that extra 20% in cost is a shortfall in the MBTA’s budget. Got that math in your head? OK. So prior to 2000, that 20% shortfall was made up for in the general budget of the state (or federal or local, on some projects). This is based on the premise that public transit is a net common good, and we should encourage it and keep it affordable. It takes cars off the road (ask the Mr. how he commutes every day), it lowers traffic congestion, our carbon emissions, and gives the working class choices as to how many places they can live and work, a very important component in building economic equality.

All right. Let’s move on to the post-2000 world of the dumb idea of forward funding. We now have a fixed amount for the shortfall after revenues are collected from fares and ads and such. Not only is this a fixed percentage of the sales tax along with the assessment from served towns, but it is the fixed percent of a tax which, particularly in downturns like the one we’ve just been through, means fluctuating revenue for operating costs even while they are trying to serve pretty much the same, or even in some cases, more riders. After all, in a downturn, people might choose to get rid of the cost of an automobile and opt for public transit.

All of this was happening exactly while the MBTA was handed a huge debt load for expenses obligated by the Big Dig. (It’s a complicated history, where the MBTA became obligated to make capital improvements in order to increase ridership, so they could “offset” the increase in auto traffic due to the highway expansion. This was to qualify for a large chunk of federal money, and was set up prior to “forward funding” in 2000.)

Once forward funding comes in, you have created an agency which, if it had complete control over its capital investments, would choose only those investments that paid for themselves. After forward funding, the state’s credit is no longer available to the MBTA. It has to float bonds on its own credit. Credit is given to you when you can prove to a credit agency that you have the means to pay a loan back. In the state’s case this is due to being able to levy taxes. In the MBTA’s case it is due to the ability to raise rates (though that is a rather difficult process) and other fees, or building a capital project that increases its ridership, and hence its revenues.

But due, in large part, to its previous obligation (that the Big Dig imposed on it) and also political pressure, a capital improvement by the MBTA might wind up not paying for itself. No where is this demonstrated better than with the Greenbush south shore expansion.

A project like Greenbush flies in the face of forward funding. South Shore politicians wanted it, and wanted it bad, and it might have been been a great idea and a desirable project from a long term economic development view - over the next couple of decades, more development might be possible along its corridor, increasing jobs and housing and maybe, eventually, ridership. However, from the MBTA’s forward funding standpoint, it’s a dismal failure. According to the above-linked Boston.com article:

Three years after the Greenbush train made its inaugural run, ridership on the $534 million commuter rail extension is far below the MBTA’s projections, and those who do take it are more likely to be former passengers of the T’s own commuter boats than motorists lured away from the South Shore’s congested highways.

Last week, according to the T, an average of 2,133 weekday customers rode the line toward Boston, about half the 4,200 riders the transit agency had expected within three to five years of opening Greenbush.

That is certainly not paying for itself.

If you’re going to force an agency to forward fund, then you cannot dictate where it decides to put its capital investments. Even if it’s politically popular to add track or stations in your neighborhood, doesn’t mean the MBTA will be able to afford it in a forward funding scenario. And if the MBTA does decide on a station in your neighborhood, you shouldn’t force it - by political pressure - to make it some kind of intermodal economic-development extravaganza if the MBTA doesn’t think it will make its investment back. And yet, this is what is happening.

If we as a Commonwealth want to think beyond what will make the MBTA its investments back, then we need to invest extra public monies to its capital investments when those costs go beyond the scope of the MBTA’s forward funded budget. End of story.

Of course, the MBTA might be able to survive in a forward funding, willy-nilly-capital-investment world if it decided to go with enormous rate increases…but that has the potential to damage the ability for much its ridership to use the transit system. Thereby decreasing ridership, and the main revenue source of the MBTA. So, that would be kind of stupid. Also deeply unpopular.

So now the MBTA is obligated to take on more debt for capital improvements (improvements, you could argue, that were needed and desired, but we should have thought about how to pay for them first), on top of what is essentially a capped revenue from public sources.

So what the hell miracle solution is the frapping MBTA Board supposed to come up with? Are they supposed to apply bloody pixie dust to the thorny problems dropped on the MBTA by the legislature?? What solution is there other than the areas they have control over?? Which would be, huge rate increases and huge service cuts. Neither of which is good for the Commonwealth.

The state legislature, aka Beacon Hill, are a bunch of whiny asshole babies over this issue. They caused this problem in several ways, and now that the structural budget problems have come to a head for the MBTA, they’re like, “they need to stop coming to us with their hand out.” And yet the solutions floated, like a big jump in fares, or stopping its likely-revenue-losing weekend service, are not only wicked unpopular with the public (duh) but unacceptable to the politicians who have to take responsibility for a pissed off public!

What other math works, other than “we need to increase revenue by increasing fares, or decrease services drastically”??

I can tell you one thing. The MBTA, while being shite at its own PR and making huge gaffs in that arena, is one of the leanest-run public organizations out there. I dare anyone to find more than a piddling inconsequential amount of “fat” in the way they run the public transit system that millions rely on.

What miracle of “revisions” to the system can possibly fracking fix this?

Apparently, if you buy into the Beacon Hill conventional wisdom, it’s someone else’s miracle to produce. Luckily, being smarter and more informed than the average Beacon Hill bubblehead, I have some ideas.

My solution may not resolve the existing debt burden problem (personally, I think the legislature should grow up and help dig the MBTA out of the hole the legislature dug for them). But…IF they want to continue with the forward funding model for the MBTA (I’m not convinced ditching it would be a bad idea but there are reasons to think it could work) then the legislature needs to change the law to ensure that forward funding be limited to being spent on operating costs, maintenance, and pay-for-themselves MBTA-driven capital improvements (ie keep the politicians from meddling and adding scope to them). If the politicians want a project akin to the operating-at-a-loss Greenbush expansion, something that is not projected to pay for itself in a reasonable timeframe, but which is desired for other reasons like expanding economic opportunities, access for underserved neighborhoods, etc, then that should be paid for outside of the MBTA’s forward funding obligations.

The MBTA, under forward funding, should not have to consider how a project benefits a community, the environment, or traffic congestion. Remember, any side-benefits that the MBTA can create by its very existence don’t show up as credits on the forward-funding balance sheet - the MBTA just get the costs. Communities, the state, citizens, we might see benefits, but the MBTA in many of these projects only sees some return.

Under forward funding, the MBTA’s only consideration should be: can it pay for its own loan on a given project? That is the way that forward funding works. By putting such outside considerations and obligations upon the MBTA so that it winds up paying for projects of more benefit to other entities other than itself, you are asking it to do too much with the fixed amount of money it can produce and borrow. The legislature is bankrupting the MBTA with the obligations it put on it prior to 2000, and the pressure for big, giant, baby-kissing sorts of expansions now. You cannot have it both ways, Beacon Hill. Either you let the MBTA decide on all the expansions it will undertake under forward funding (keeping revenue generation and budget in mind) even if those projects aren’t good for ribbon cuttings or sucking up to your electorate…or pay for the capital investments in the system some other way.

The alternative is to trap the MBTA between a rock and a hard place, and then blame them when they can’t extract themselves. Which I guess is where we find ourselves. I just thought that Senator Donoghue was a lot better than your regular Beacon Hill insider. But it’s not too late for her to change her approach to this complex problem to something a little more nuanced than “I blame the MBTA Board for not performing miracles.”

Serious problems call for serious leadership. That’s all I’m sayin’.

17 Responses to “Donoghue (and Beacon Hill) Is Very Wrong on the MBTA”

  1. Joe S. Says:

    We have to agree that using rainy day funds to cover a chronic problem is a bad idea. However, where debt has been piled onto the MBTA to “save” the Big Dig, it may make sense to use a block of rainy day funds to eradicate that underserved debt burden.

    But that is only a part of a bigger problem. As you pointed out that last politically driven expansion falls far short in paying for itself. Could this make a case for no further expansion until the business model is balanced?

    When the MBTA faced a $160M deficit for FY 2010, the Governor proposed a portion of an increase (19 cents) in the gasoline tax to provide that revenue. The gasoline tax would have the dual effects of raising the needed revenue while transfering some of the transportation incentive to public transportation. However, the legislature elected to raise the sales tax (to 6.25%) and provide $160M to the MBTA from that added revenue. That was done, and the MBTA gets the $160M each year, in addition to the 1% (20% of the original sales tax)sales tax. Taken together with local assessments these funds provide over 2/3rds of the MBTA revenue. Despite that, the MBTA is claiming a $161M deficit for FY 2013. This is a clear indication that providing more money doesn’t solve the problem.

    Transportation reform was supposed to reduce costs, however many of the cost-reduction initiatives are only implemented for new employees and/or new contracts. Therefore, the onerous pension and health care provisions of prior contracts generally remain. This is an area where Senator Donoghue rightfully puts the ball back in the court of the MBTA board.

    The Legislature clearly does not intend to “raise” taxes, and by law must balance the State budget. If the sales tax were held at 6.25%, but the commerce laws are modified to tax internet sales delivered within MA, then the revenue stream projected in the 2000 forward-funding plan may come closer to its projection.

    Those most served by the MBTA should probably be expected to share the burden, but rather than a 40% increase in fares with reduced service, it seems that a more modest increase (10-15%) and some smart options, like 1-day or 3-day passes to entice visitor use, would be a better plan.

    Whether the combination of a) erasing the debt held by the MBTA driven by the Big Dig, b) the MBTA board taking cost reduction seriously, c) the added revenue from expanding the internet sales tax base and d) a modest fare increase and expanded options would be enough to solve the problem is an unknown, but it seems the problem has to be attacked on multiple fronts to get a business model that makes sense.

  2. Tim Little Says:

    I still think Ryan’s take (heh) makes a lot of sese:

    And, hey, we could be Detroit:

  3. Senator Eileen Donoghue Says:

    I was surprised to read Lynne’s post about my remarks regarding the MBTA and my opposition to using the Rainy Day fund as a fix. I respectfully disagree with her portrayal of my response, and I felt as though I should address it.

    I absolutely stand by that remark- I would not support a short term fix for the MBTA’s deficit and/ or debt problems. As I said on WCAP, tapping into the Rainy Day Fund to help solve a decade long funding issue with the MBTA runs totally contrary to the idea of the Rainy Day Fund. Not to mention this would create a very poor precedent.

    Lynne seems to take issue with the roughly 2 minutes which I had to speak about the problems with the MBTA, and she was disappointed specifically by 151 words of mine which she quotes in her post.

    Lynne believes that I glossed over the forward funding issues and the Big Dig debt- I do recognize that both of these had profound effects on the current fiscal situation the MBTA is in. The history of how we got to this point is important to take into account, but it does not erase that the MBTA does hold some accountability.

    As a first term State Senator, I was not involved in the decisions which landed us here, but I do have a say in what we do moving forward.

    The MBTA has yet to present the legislature with a proposal. They are still conducting their hearings on their two proposals which they outlined weeks ago, the last of which is to take place on Monday. Additionally, the MBTA Advisory Board came out another proposal of their own last month. There is not yet a final proposal in place.

    Roughly two minutes is not enough time for anyone to properly chronicle how the MBTA ended up in the situation. Lynne spent more than 2,000 words picking apart less than 200 of mine.

    I think Lynne misconstrued my attempt at brevity for ignorance. I was simply advocating for a sustainable, long-term solution to the MBTA’s financial woes rather than kicking the can down the road. To do this we will need the Legislature and the MBTA to work together.

    I look forward to an ongoing dialogue about this and I appreciate the opportunity to respond. I also look forward to my continued friendship with Lynne, who has been a big supporter of mine in the past.

  4. Lynne Says:

    Thank you for responding, and elaborating.

    Here’s the thing:
    Blaming the Board for not producing (and its my understanding are undergoing a process to produce) a specific proposal is not solving anything at all. Soundbite or not, short statement or not, it was a bad statement. The fact is that it looks and feels like passing the buck. The MBTA has been floating ideas about service cuts and price hikes and having a ton of public hearings on the subject and literally, getting the hell kicked out of them, for over a month!

    The MBTA is taking the flack for the legislature’s decade of passing the buck. Your statement only contributed to that problem, not helped. It was, at a minimum, irresponsible because it totally glosses over the fact that it must be the legislature that solves this problem. The ONLY thing the Board can do is cut services, and raise rates. And anything less than draconian cuts and draconian rate increases will only marginally help and will not solve the long term budget problems, anyway.

    Ergo, I am frustrated with the way I see Beacon Hill once again trying to pretend it’s someone else’s problem to solve. Now granted, those structural problems with funding were way before you were elected, but to make a statement, in however little time you have to address it, that this is all on the Board, is to totally ignore that that Board is basically in a no-win situation. They get to have everyone including politicians rake them over the coals, for basically having no choice in the matter.

    The state legislature is famous for having these quasi-independent agencies that they constantly meddle with (put their friends in jobs, or dictate projects and where they should be built, who builds them, etc) and then get to blame said quasi-independent agency for all the ills that causes. That might be a mildly simplistic take on how things run in this state, but it’s pretty accurate.

    You could take two minutes and easily sum up what I’ve written here. I could do it.

    but it does not erase that the MBTA does hold some accountability

    What does that even mean? Accountable for what? Running super lean? Having the same pension woes the rest of the state does? For taking on projects that it couldn’t afford that it was obligated to take on due to previous commitments the state made on its behalf?? I guess I am not clear on this. A statement like “hold them accountable” has no meaning without asking, “for what?”

  5. Lynne Says:

    Yeah, I know. I’m an annoyingly demanding constituent. But it’s because I care a lot, really it is.

  6. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Thanks for responding Eileen. As a concerned constituent I’m very appreciative.

    I understand the 200 to 2000 comparison. My concern is that it doesn’t actually take that many words to start or support a meme. In this case the rhetoric I keep hearing from the hill is framing the problem in terms of an MBTA board that is a villain at worst or an irresponsible party at least. I’m not sure this is the truth and I’d like to see some more digging, particularly into the the structural situation that we’re in and whether it’s reasonable to expect what we expect from the T in context (including being constrained by forward funding).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the MBTA bonds are floated with the understanding that one of the mechanisms that lets the MBTA guarantee repayment is their ability to control their fares. In practice, with pressure from politicians and having to jump through hoops this turns out to be problematic. This might not have been that much of a problem when the State was the guarantor (because of the many other options the State has), but is much more important when the MBTA has to secure it’s own credit under forward funding.

    The other thing I’d mention is that the MBTA is constrained with regard to real estate because, as I understand it, the state still owns it all. They might be able to find some cash with air rights or some such, but not of they don’t actually own them.

    One last thing. Lynne duplicated the post on BMG and you might consider making an appearance there.

  7. Plain Jane Says:

    Wow, Lynne! You seem to consistently miss the point. Senator Donahue was asked if using the rainy day fund was acceptable to cover ( chronic ) shortfalls in the MBTA’s budget. The Senator has the right answer. There’s no free ride. The ebbing tide lowers all boats. Fare hikes and service cuts are as perennial as the grass, and reflect the fiscal wellness of the MBTA. Senator Donohue didn’t have access to Wikipedia or Boston.com, she had a minute to think on her feet. When good people like Sen. Donahue give a direct and honest answer to a live question, they don’t have to have a five year plan with full details. They DO have to have the best interests of their constituents and the Commonwealth at the forefront of their minds. Your ” kick it down the road, business as usual” refrain is far more ” Beacon Hill” than anything Senator Donohue has going on. I am very glad to see the Senator’s thoughtful and measured response.

  8. Mr. Lynne Says:

    The point here is the meme of “blame the MBTA itself for all their problems”. Simply picking a villain and being satisfied with that for an explanation is too simple here.

  9. David Whelan Says:

    Many believe that our public schools are underfunded by as much as $2 billion. Where does all this money come from?

  10. Lynne Says:

    Plain Jane - no, you are missing the point. She went far beyond that in the second half of her response, all the way to accusing them of not making changes that would somehow fix the problem, and that

    they just turn to the legislature, put out their hand, and say “give us more money.”

    This is 100% Beacon Hill speak. Oh, how often we’ve heard it. It’s the “see I am being fiscally responsible by saying that they should be held accountable.” Notice the “they” in all that. Damn the context and forward the torpedoes - as long as they don’t hit me! And it’s pretty plain (from comments of other legislators) that this is the prevailing meme right there ON Beacon Hill - I guess what I am disappointed in, is that someone as smart and interested in policy as Senator Donoghue would repeat it.

    Instead of “they should stop coming to us for a handout” she could have said, “the MBTA is in a really tough spot, put there by past obligations and forward funding, and we will need to rethink the very mechanisms of how we fund the MBTA, and help them solve the debt problem as well.” THAT is taking responsibility and being proactive, not scapegoating.

    Perpetrating a bad meme that distances the blame from the body to which you were elected is Beacon Hill through and through. Sorry to be the one to point it out (since as you all know I really do support Senator Donoghue as a general rule)…because it really does pain me…but I am not going to hold back when I see something that needs to be called out regardless of who it is about. If Jamie Eldridge said this I’d be just as angry. And you all know I ADORE Jamie. Thing is, I don’t think Jamie WOULD say this. Which is why he’s so great.

    Almost all of the stuff I put together for this article required Google, and my own brain. It’s really not rocket science. I am trying to not only point something out, but CHANGE THE CONVERSATION here. This is important stuff. This is destiny-changing stuff.

  11. joe from Lowell Says:


    I don’t think it’s the senator lacking nuance here.

    I think you blew up a reasonable statement - that we should hold off on burning through the rainy day money to stop a leaking hole until we have a long-term capital plan for the MBTA - into something far beyond what was intended.

    She did not “blame the MBTA for all its problems.”

  12. Lynne Says:

    What part of this:

    And they just seem incapable of doing it. …One of the things, when they reorganized and changed…you know, forward funding for the MBTA, over ten years ago, I think the whole notion was to give the Board authority; they also took on some debt, but give them authority to start making…system-wide changes. And that doesn’t seem to have happened. So now when the MBTA comes up short for - and again, what could be their lack of action in making real important revisions to the way they run the system - they just turn to the legislature, put out their hand, and say “give us more money.”

    exactly, am I misinterpreting?

    No really, I’m waiting for someone to tell me.

  13. Lynne Says:

    She *started* with - and I will notate here that I AGREED with her - a response to the notion of the rainy day fund proposal (which comes, I will also notate, NOT from the MBTA, but from an outside group). She did not stick with talking about that. She made a blanket statement about much more than the rainy day fund. She made a judgement call on blame and who is responsible for the solution which, IMHO, is the Beacon Hill meme on this problem, and I called her on it.

    Sorry, but blind faith in someone isn’t a reasonable excuse to go out of your way to ignore something indefensible.

    What, you think Senator Donoghue can do no wrong? I beg to differ. We can all make mistakes. I think she made one here.

    At the very minimum, this ought to silence all my critics who say I think Democrats are always right whenever they open their mouths.

    I’m not here to please the politicians. They should be going out of their way to please US. When I am not pleased, I say so.

  14. Lynne Says:

    Let me put it another way: I am totally not surprised that this is the Beacon Hill groupthink perception. They *never* want to take the blame for bad stuff. And that’s totally human - they need to worry about reelection, and if they get associated with bad consequences, that could affect their chances. This is pretty much WHY quasi-independent entities get created in this state. (God if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this…)

    However, that is not the FAIR way to approach this, nor is it going to contribute to solving the problem, both in the short term and in the long term. The ONLY solution here is legislative, unless you want to see drastic service cuts and fare hikes. There has to be an addressing of the forward funding mechanism - either fully committing to it, or else ditching it entirely as a failure - and of the debt problem, also imposed upon the MBTA by the legislature (albeit some of that prior to 2000).

    “Waiting for the MBTA Board to come up with a proposal” is a bullshit groupthink nonanswer.

  15. Plain Jane Says:

    Actually, it’s the ONLY responsible answer for a Freshman Senator to make:
    Wait until you know what the MBTA plans to do, before you agree to fund it with the Rainy Day Fund.

    Verbosity and hyperbole not with standing.

    Senator Donahue is giving a genuine, thoughtful response; let’s not put this onto the backs of the next generation!
    She is being handed a mess and choosing to deal th it up front.
    Good woman, yourself, Senator Eileen Donohue!

  16. Ryan Says:

    Plain Jane — keep on keeping on about the Rainy Day Fund is a strawman. Everyone here agrees that’s a bad way to fund the gap. The question is what does the Senator, and all of Beacon Hill, think is the problem. It’s clear the Senator thinks the problem is the MBTA… and the rest of Beacon Hill seems to agree.

    That, of course, ignores the fact that it’s the debt that Beacon Hill forced on the MBTA which is causing the MBTA to enter into a death spiral. Beacon Hill has to be held accountable for that.

    A senator can’t have the best interest of their constituents in mind if they place the bulk of the blame on the MBTA and not on Beacon Hill itself, because that means they’re not willing to address the real problems… and if they’re not willing to address the real problems, they’re NOT WILLING TO HELP THEIR CONSTITUENTS, both those who depend on the T for transportation and for small businesses that depend on it for employees and costumers.

  17. Lynne Says:

    To Jane - that, I hate to say this, sounds like something an apologist would say. Why do I think that? Well, because you are A) reading into her statements something that is not said and B) ignoring pretty much most of the initial comment other than the beginning.

    First, you read into the comment by stating that she meant that if the MBTA comes out with a plan (by the way, they’ve floated several), then she’ll consider the Rainy Day fund. That is not evident from the comment at all.

    Second, you totally want to ignore the rest of the comment! It’s amazing, really, the lengths you’re going to, it makes me wonder.

    “And they just seem incapable of doing it.”

    THEY, meaning the MBTA - despite the very plain evidence that there’s a very good reason they can’t fix it - and that’s the legislature and its mandates, interference, and funding mechanisms they put in place.

    “…give them authority to start making…system-wide changes. And that doesn’t seem to have happened.”

    What system wide changes? Maybe union busting? Cuz short of drastic measures there WAS no solution to this. The legislature has punted on this issue on several occasions. This isn’t the first time the MBTA’s budget woes have come up, you know. Freshmen Senator or not, she has a responsibility to be able to back up her statements with concrete facts.

    “So now when the MBTA comes up short for - and again, what could be their lack of action in making real important revisions to the way they run the system - they just turn to the legislature, put out their hand, and say ‘give us more money.’”

    Again with the THEY. Again with the nebulous references to “revisions” they should have made…and I am questioning, what is that, what should that have been? She’s making an accusation of incompetence or failure here on the MBTA’s part, and I’d like to know - beyond conventional wisdom, beyond talking points and Beacon Hill chatter, what, precisely, does she and the other legislators who are making similar statements really mean by this?

    The MBTA was strung out on fixed revenues and obligations and relying on their OWN credit (as opposed to state credit) and yeah, they got burned on some of those terms, but what, exactly, do we think they could have miraculously done better to prevent this?

    She’s making an accusation, and I am refuting it. The statements appear to have Beacon Hill stink on them, and I don’t like it. Sorry this upsets you, but you have got to do better than this if you want to convince me on the merits of your argument.

    You can be an apologist all you want, but you have totally failed to address any of my actual points.

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