Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Who’s paying for the ride?

Here’s a heads up on the very high profile woes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) serving the greater Boston area.

You may know that MBTA broke down in a very public, teeth-grating way during the massive snowfalls that battered Boston and suburbs in the last few months. Many days there was erratic and snail-slow service, and some days there wasn’t any service. In other words, public transit it wasn’t.

You may know that the duly elected representatives of the people in Boston and the state have failed to invest something close to $10 billion in recent years to keep the “T” going with good equipment, on time. It’s a classic failure of government to take the long view and allocate current funds as needed.

You may not know that the Boston Globe has estimated that MBTA passengers are paying only about 39 percent of the system’s operating expenses. In Chicago the comparable figure is 44 percent, and in San Francisco, 76 percent.

Quite obviously, the funding, operational and public policy issues of the MBTA are complex and difficult to manage.

Quite obviously, folks who don’t ride on the trains and buses are paying the biggest share of the cost to keep the arguably medium-quality operation going.

Quite obviously, public transit serves a public good—it reduces commuter congestion, reduces harmful pollutant emissions, provides transportation for workers without cars who couldn’t get to work otherwise.

Quite obviously, it doesn’t make real good sense that almost two-thirds of the cost is borne by non-users. They’re getting taken for a ride.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

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