Fixing the T Requires Investment: PM Member Kevin Loechner in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe South  - March 14, 2015. 

Should we increase taxes to fix the T?

YES

kloech.jpgBy Kevin Loechner of Hull, member of Progressive Massachusetts, Democratic activist and daily mass transit commuter.

If you have ridden public transit lately, you know how frustrating it has been. The experience on our roads hasn’t been much better. Traffic on Route 3A has increased due to major delays and breakdowns on the MBTA’s Greenbush Line and ice in Hingham Harbor. The unusually brutal winter has magnified the underlying structural problems within our transportation infrastructure.

A 2009 report identified more than $3 billion in deferred MBTA maintenance costs. These costs have probably gone up since then. The Federal Highway Administration in 2014 said more than 50 percent of the state’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Clearly these issues need to be fixed, and due to the costs involved we will need to increase some taxes in order to pay for them. The recent winter breakdown of our transportation system is a stark reminder that we need a comprehensive funding plan. 

A major part of this plan should involve increased income taxes along with a lower sales tax. The current scheme of dedicating part of sales tax revenues toward public transit is insufficient. Relying on gas taxes is not a long-term solution. Increased fuel efficiency and inflation will reduce revenue over the long term with a per-gallon tax. An attempt to partially remedy this issue was rejected by voters in 2014.

Increased income tax revenues will allow more funding to flow to area towns for road improvements. It will also increase funding to other regional transit systems such as the Brockton Area Transit Authority,

Until greater parity between federal matching funds for highways and rail transit can be achieved, we will need to come up with our own solutions. A major part of our solution must include some increased taxes. It’s not a popular solution, but our transportation infrastructure is in dire condition and this winter has exposed all of its flaws.

Our Legislature has kicked the can down the road for too long. Former DOT Secretary Rich Davey has said it will be very difficult to fix transportation issues and provide long-promised expansions without increasing taxes.

We need to raise our voices for a comprehensive solution that includes increased taxes with dedicated funding for transportation maintenance and winter proofing.

Excerpted from the Boston Globe; see original article for opposing viewpoint. 


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