Fixing the MBTA Imperative for Our Economy: PM Member Robert Fitzpatrick in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe West  - March 22, 2015. 

Does the state need to adopt additional tax increases to address the problems of the MBTA and its overall transportation needs? 

Robert Fitzpatrick


By Robert Fitzpatrick, Newton attorney, member of Progressive Massachusetts and secretary of the Newton Democratic City Committee.

None of this is new. In 2009, a similar commission appointed by Governor Patrick found that the MBTA’s “Forward Funding” scheme adopted in 2000 was based on unrealistic cost and revenue assumptions and concluded that the “Outlook Is Bleak.” Even with five fare hikes since 2001, the T runs at a structural operating deficit and has taken on significant additional debt.These are tough times for Boston commuters. Record snowfall totals this winter created massive traffic snarls and shone a harsh spotlight on the MBTA’s deficiencies. In February the T’s general manager resigned and Governor Baker appointed a commission to study the agency’s problems.

The MBTA’s ongoing difficulties are at best an inconvenience, at worst a threat to survival. Many low-wage workers can be fired if they’re late, but must rely on our unreliable public transit system to reach their jobs. And our transportation troubles are not limited to the T. Greater Boston is a densely populated area with a byzantine network of old, narrow roads and bridges in equally bad shape. Traffic is awful, and MassDOT projected it would get 23 percent worse between 2013 and 2023.

In 2013, MassDOT concluded that additional infrastructure investment for roads and transit of about $1 billion annually for ten years would get us out of this mess. That sounds big, but it’s less than half the $2.3 billion that the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013 estimated Massachusetts motorists spend annually on repairs and increased operating costs due to the poor condition of our chronically underfunded roads. Instead of acting to address this glaring need, the governor and Legislature just decreased MassDOT’s funding by $40 million. Penny wise, pound foolish.

It shouldn’t be this way. We need a comprehensive plan to get people from A to B more efficiently, including by expanding — not just maintaining — public transit. Our quality of life and continued economic development depend on it. We are told we can’t afford to maintain existing transportation spending, let alone make the additional investments needed to fix our system. In reality, we can’t afford not to address our infrastructure woes. Even if it means facing that other dreaded “T,” taxes.

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

Read more from Robert-- check out his analysis on Governor Baker's first budget proposal, on our blog!




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