Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cavalry Tries To Save The T

Tomorrow commuters get championed by Senator Jarrett Barrios and Representatives Alice Wolf and Carl Sciortino Jr. They'll try to introduce fiscal reality into the fantasy world of the MBTA.

The first step is a bill to have the state release the T from part of the gigantic debt -- the nation's largest for a transit system -- that it unilaterally forced on the MBTA and that is preventing the authority from functioning as well as driving up costs. Supporters of this include Livable Streets, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the T Riders Union.

We had our own rants on this back in June. This post has links to my calls for free mass transit and touches on the issues of absurd debt imposed on the T.

This time, there seems to be a critical mass of politicians and interest groups that admit how untenable the non-funding of the T is.

When over $5 billion of debt piled on the T in 2000, the fantasy was of the post-WWII type. There would be a never-ending growth spiral of tax revenue to fund payments. The debt remains, but the projected growing 20% of the state's sales tax revenue to offset it has dwindled instead.

Now at a time when we allegedly favor mass transit, fewer vehicles, less congestion, decreased pollution, and stewardship of our resources, we have not yet dealt with this huge error by the legislature.

According to the Globe coverage, Barrios will propose a $2.9 billion assumption of debt. This seems to have at least temporarily stunned Gov. Deval Patrick, who has not immediately responded favorably or at all.

Back to reality, long-overdue reconsideration of the debt and T funding seems to be in the works. The pending bill would be "a good first step," according to co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, Senator Steven Baddour. He promises hearings on T funding.

It shouldn't even take a calculator for folks to figure out how badly the commonwealth erred here. The T board has kept its beak firmly in its feathers on this one and has been no help at all. Good on Barrios and his chums for hopping on this.

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