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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

A Basic Disconnect

As long as I can remember, the T has been lousy. I remember standing at the bus stop at 6:45 in February, waiting for a bus that the schedule says runs every seven minutes. After twenty minutes of my shivering and cursing the T three buses come racing each other the hill, with the last two, completely empty, not stopping. This is the kind of crappiness in service I have always associated with the T. I grumble.

Lately, there have been changes in the basic attitude of T management. They’ve upgraded the buses, added ridiculous new buses disguised as a “line” that only serves to slow automobile traffic, and installed electronic systems that remind us (infants that we are) to keep the aisles clear. They also “improved” the fare system, adding fancy electronic glass-doored gates. How do we leave in the event of a blackout? The amateurishly authoritarian T tried blaring infotainment via the auditory lucid nightmare that was T Radio, and now these gates? Is this 1984? They also created a huge amount of worthless paper trash strewn everywhere, and made valueless the tokens.

No tokens? What am I going to fling at the pigeons in front of Ruggles now? You see, they don’t think about this stuff.

The constant pre-recorded announcements, many of which refer to us as “MBTA customers”. We are not customers: you, MBTA, are state property. We are your bosses.

They’ve also explored ways of making the T environment a vector for more and more advertising. Remember when State was called State / Citizens Bank (including the bank logo)? They placed advertisements in the tunnels supposedly spaced so you can read them from the moving train. It really only succeeds in disorienting you, having an orange juice mirage splashed at you from the nether region outside the train doesn’t make you want it any more.

Why all the advertising? Why the sleek new fare system? They tell us that these are ways to raise money, and they point to the T’s multi-billion dollar debt. Thing is, before just a few years ago, the T had a deal where any discrepancy between their operating budget and the amount they took in would be made up for by the state.

They say the T should pay for itself, that its costs of operation should be borne by the people who use it. Sounds reasonable enough when you say it like that, doesn’t it? It’s not, though. Here’s another way to phrase it that sounds reasonable: people use the T to get to work, and it’s that work which is part of the foundation of the economy. So, since the state is there to provide services for the public and to guarantee the integrity of the economy, it should be the one paying for the T. And since the state’s budget comes directly from our taxes, and we all benefit from the economy’s strength, it makes perfect sense to me that we should all chip in a little to pay for something that helps us all, even though it may be indirectly.

This is the basic idea of government, isn’t it? We chip in so the government can do things we can’t individually, that benefit most people. We may not individually use these things, but they’re there. Libraries, schools, fire fighters, police, sewage, roads. Why wouldn’t public transportation be among them? Does anyone claim they should be funded solely by the families of the students attending them? Who calls public school students “customers”?

Get real. People getting to work is the backbone of the economy, and should be thought of as the great thing it could be. If some people are going to bicker about the few cents of their taxes going to public transportation in the eastern half of the state, can I bicker about the highway budget?