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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


Let’s play a game. We’ll pretend I’m a top-heavy bureaucratic monolith, and you’re going to guess who I am. Here are some hints:

~ I’m more than $8 billion dollars in debt.

~ The last time I raised my fares to decrease this debt, my debt only grew. Now I want to increase fares by a further 25%.

~ Unable to pay off this debt, I am currently in talks with Beacon Hill about receiving a bailout.

Give up? Try this one:

“Dan Grabauskas should spend less time ghostwriting fundraising letters and more time explaining why he’s delivered nothing for Worcester County during the time he’s been secretary of transportation and head of the MBTA under the Romney-Healey administration. Dan’s a great talker, but he’s delivered nothing.”

–Timothy Murray, Mayor of Worcester

Yep. I am the MBTA, run by General Manager Dan Grabauskas, as every rider is painfully aware if they have actually listened to the incessant messages blared over MBTA speaker systems (or, at least, the ones that work) during interminable train station waits. Thinking about this state of affairs, the negligence that has eviscerated the nation’s first public transit system and has left it undeniably the absolute worst, the writer of this editorial has had to take several breaks to calm himself down.

It’s no joke, folks. The MBTA really, truly, sucks. Usually, with these things, you try to present the issue in a fair and even-handed manner, leaving room for dissenting views and between-the-lines reading. Not here. The Mass Media despises the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. We hate the service, the waits and the breakdowns and the rudeness of the drivers. We hate the corrupt, aloof leadership, who see one of the greatest management breakdowns in the history of the Commonwealth as an opportunity to feed further at the public trough by proposing one hare-brained expansion proposal after another. We hate, more than the English language is able to convey, the new fare increases, built as they are on the assumption that the MBTA has anything to offer that is worth paying for. Hate.

It’s not about giving the average Joe a fair shake or anything like that. Mass transit is the “people’s chariot”, and, we assume, good for “the people”. But this isn’t just about your average Joe chunneling in from Southie, it’s also about Joseph, Jr., Esquire who rides in from Brookline. It’s about Mike freaking Dukakis, who rides the Green Line home every night. It’s about every man, woman, child and seeing-eye dog who has ever set foot on MBTA property. It’s about:

~ Half-hour waits outside in the cold

~ Thuggish, surly operators

~ Trains that break down once, twice, three times in a ride that should take twenty minutes.

The proposed increase would be 25% of the current fare and take place in January of 2007. This means that bus fare would rise from the 90 cents to $1.15, and the subway from the current $1.25 to $1.55. The alternative is that the State Legislature spend our tax money to bail the system out. The MBTA richly, so richly, deserves to smother under its Gargantuan debt and die a disgraceful death so that we can build anew. If it were a private concern, it would have done so long ago. Unfortunately, it is a public affair; we all must smother with it. Pay the fare increase or pay for the bailout, it’s one or the other.

Even a fare increase would only leave the system treading water. The good thing about a bailout is that by effectively declaring bankruptcy and having its entire debt burden wiped out, the system can (ostensibly) tend to immediately pressing concerns, like updating and increasing its fleet of trains and buses. Will it, though? Or will we be having this same discussion again in ten years as the system sinks more of our money into idiotic pork projects like the Greenbush line, which was fought vehemently by the residents of the towns it will be constructed along, or the Silver Line, which is an insulting and extremely expensive attempt to placate the residents of Mattapan and Roxbury, who for so long fought for decent service to their areas?

We don’t know. The only thing we do know is that any mention of another fare increase, the second in three years, for the nation’s worst public transportation service is anathema to any sane, rational individual. We have one message for the MBTA: Take a hike.