I think the formal title for the comedian is MBTA General Manager and the play itself Forward Funding Follies.
The audience is bored and hostile, and being driven away. Yet the play is all.
Yesterday's act was the announcement that (oh, great surprise) the T will suck $2.5 million from its reserves for the next fiscal year, starting in July. Imagine, when the self-funding of mass transit was built on a clumsy and mathematically impossible pyramid scheme, how could it fall short?
Moreover, when the T got to jack up its prices for decreasing service, and then blew hundreds of millions in a widely disdained and surely nation's-worst automated fare system, how could commuters not rush to take the T to hell?
Oh, wait a minute. Yes, that's right. The forward funding model assumes an endless growth spiral of sales-tax revenue from the flourishing Massachusetts economy and totally revived high-tech sector. That certainly worked for the WWII generation's scheme for keeping war-fueled economic growth lasting forever, didn't it? Oh, no, that didn't work either.
We have ridden this decrepit nag around the track a number of times, like here, here and here. The gist includes:
- Forward funding was and is an impossible scam, a fantasy.
- The legislature and previous governors blew this funding model.
- Regardless of what else is pressing, the legislator and governor must totally revise this to keep the commonwealth efficient and competitive.
- We should do whatever it takes to make commuter rail and intracity mass transit too attractive to pass up.
- The true costs of vehicular traffic are often hidden and overlooked -- congestion, pollution, noise, resulting physical and mental diseases, plus the absurd cost per passenger mile in construction, road maintenance, traffic control and on and on.
The reality is more that it is stupid not to charge minimal or no fare for using mass transit. More commuters and fewer vehicles are great for the economy and health -- in macro and micro senses.
There are repressive-to-liberty-demanding-Americans methods used elsewhere. Consider London-style fees to drive into a major city or much higher gas prices.
Instead, we can accomplish most of what we need by making the MBTA in its various forms less expensive, more frequent and more efficient. We can't do this with the inane and indefensible forward funding model. Our chief comic has long and repeatedly shown that he has neither leadership skills nor vision. Like a stoner teen piling up credit-card debt, the legislature simply does not want to deal the reality of its financial non-planning blunders.
I can't see Senate President Bobby Travaglini, with one wingtip out the door, tackling this. He has passed it up many times already.
This is one area that promises a high rate of return for an investment. That's what our new governor promised repeatedly in his campaign that he'd do. We can come off as heroes and leaders, politically and economically, but first we have to admit the problem and commit to fix it.
Meanwhile, we totter on the trestle while the comedy plays on.
Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, Boston, MBTA, forward funding