Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Save the MBTA!

Today, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council released a "new plan for growth and preservation in Greater Boston" called MetroFuture. Not surprisingly, the plan, according to an op-ed by council director Marc Draisen:

... calls for a new pattern of development based on "smart growth" - concentrating new homes and jobs near existing infrastructure, preserving farms and fields, and protecting air, water, and habitat. However, attaining the lofty goals of MetroFuture depends more on one institution than on any other: a healthy, stable, and growing transit system.

We need to be investing in transit infrastructure and services, but instead we face higher fares and significant service cuts.

Draisen does a nice job of highlighting the difference between how transit needs get different treatment than roadway needs.

Much attention has been paid to toll hikes proposed for the Mass. Pike, Tobin Bridge, and harbor tunnels. The Commonwealth now appears poised to prevent those hikes by pumping state money into the Turnpike Authority. Yet no such commitment has been made to the T. Are those who pay T fares any less worthy of state assistance than motorists? Are they any more to blame for the state's transportation woes? The answer, in both cases, is no.

While transit spending is more progressive, providing services to the elderly and poorer residents, I don't think it's really a class issue. It's more a function of how transparent the subsidy is. It's easy to see how transit riders don't cover costs at the farebox. It's less clear how heavily subsidized driving is.

No fare increases without a gas tax. No service cuts.

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