Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The T Playing Wrong Game

The first of many hearings on the MBTA fare increase and reduced service was yesterday. Everyone involved is still in the cave, looking for the best corner to hide.

Honk. Wrong.

We already proposed and shall scream more about the solution, eliminate T fare. Otherwise, the only debate available is how can we make the T profitable. It's the wrong discussion.

Sort of apology: This is off topic. The only marriage here would be of reason and government -- always an uncomfortable and unlikely couple. As a state and nation, we continue to pay many billions annually to subsidize the commutes, goods transfer and other highway costs of car and truck drivers. Let's be fair about fares.

No Surprises Yesterday

The first public hearing produced exactly what we should expect. Commuters and others say that raising the fare will repel riders when the T needs more.

Read accounts in the Metro, in the Herald, and in the Globe. They are very similar.

Ex-Governor Mike Dukakis -- a big mass-transit supporter and regular Green Line rider -- seemed the most sensible. He started by pointing out that $3 gas is a great motivator for riders, and as a result, this is exactly the wrong time to raise fares or reduce services.

He suggested that the commonwealth needs to stop pretending that the T is just some business. He wants legislators to reduce the MBTA's $5 billion-plus debt.

We suggest that the debt helps illustrate one aspect of the problem. If we treat mass transit as a public good, like highways, we gain the perspective. It should not scratch for a share of public money. Its funds should got to providing more and better transit, not to weaseling around the inane forward funding that the General Court imposed seven years ago, prohibiting even asking for fuel-increase adjustments. Dumb and punitive.

Meanwhile, T Deputy General Manager Dennis DiZoglio predicts a 6% drop in riders if the fare goes up. He also is looking at reducing bus and subway frequency to cut costs.

Again, this illustrates that the present funding and business model does not work and cannot work. Don't pretend that we can make money on the T; reap the benefits from a free mass-transit, and then expand it.

There are more hearings over the next month. Check the schedule, attend one, be vocal, free the T.

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