The Boston Globe by John Laidler
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Richard A. Dimino
Brookline resident; President and CEO, A Better City; former Boston Commissioner of Transportation
Thousands of daily commuters and the region’s economy depend on the MBTA to perform. The system faces major challenges stemming from policies implemented over the last 20 years, but the MBTA of today is improving — with credit due to the Baker Administration’s and Legislature’s 2015 vision in creating the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board. Through the board’s oversight and leadership, the MBTA is now better positioned for long-term success than at any point in recent memory. The key will be building on these efforts to do even more.
The MBTA’s physical infrastructure was neglected and underfunded for decades. Riders still face daily frustrations with the system and progress can feel slow. Nonetheless, the MBTA’s list of accomplishments over the last three years should give riders and other stakeholders confidence that the agency is worthy of increased public investment and ongoing support.
The MBTA is better managing its budget, controlling overtime costs, limiting absenteeism, and successfully reaching common ground with employees through new labor agreements.
The Control Board revised the Green Line Extension project to reduce and stabilize its cost while providing access to a new corridor of sustainable development and transit service. The MBTA has shown a new openness to innovative thinking, partnering with Uber and Lyft to deliver para-transit service. Finally, the MBTA is more transparent than ever, with its spending plans and long-term strategic plan now online for public review.
It will take the MBTA many years to address its $7.3 billion-plus repair backlog and deliver the new vehicles, transit signals, tracks, buses, and technology needed to ensure truly reliable and efficient service. These core improvements are critical. Additionally, the MBTA still needs to implement planned capacity improvements. And it needs a comprehensive finance plan that puts the MBTA in more high-growth areas to unlock new economic development, promote equity, relieve congestion, and reduce greenhouse gases..
The MBTA is more than a transit agency; it is an economic development and opportunity provider. We still have a long way to go to meet the needs of our residents, workers, economy, mobility, and environment, but over the last three years the MBTA has been put on the right track.
Maria Belen Power
Chelsea resident; Associate Executive Director of Green Roots, an organization that works for environmental justice in Chelsea and surrounding communities
From the perspective of transit-dependent riders, the MBTA continues to fail. My community’s experience is representative.
Chelsea is one of the state’s most densely-populated cities, and the voice of our riders is important.
Through its push to privatize the MBTA, continued inadequate service, and lack of genuine and constructive engagement with riders, the MBTA continues to neglect communities that rely on it.
Expanded public transit should be celebrated. At face value, the Silver Line bus service extension into Chelsea is positive. But there’s a downside. This kind of investment can cause housing prices to rise, forcing low-income people to relocate to less transit-connected communities. A better approach would be to improve existing bus service vital to so many working people.
Transit-dependent residents have few choices. They lose their jobs if they arrive late for work, and cannot afford to take a rideshare or taxi when the bus does not show. As service industry workers, they can’t just telecommute.
Responding to the needs of these riders while we build the next transit generation should be the priority; instead, we see a gradual erosion of service on some of the most utilized bus lines serving low-income communities and people of color.
The 111 bus — the third busiest MBTA line — has among the highest rates of dropped trips. And now there are three major MassDOT roadway bridge projects planned or underway in Chelsea that will significantly impact service, increasing a lengthy commute by 150 percent during peak construction, based on MBTA information. The MBTA’s General Manager advice to “seek alternative modes of travel, including walking and biking” shows a lack of awareness and respect towards those whose lives are most impacted. When low-income and vulnerable communities receive some of the worst service, that should be cause for outrage.
Finally, the Governor’s push for MBTA privatization is the wrong approach. Touted inaccurately as a sure way to save money, privatization is a profit-making opportunity for corporations who can then cut corners, provide poor service, and pass on the bill to taxpayers.
Our communities need deep investment in public transportation that can provide reliable service while also ensuring fair wage union jobs for our families and friends.