THE MBTA: MONUMENTAL FAILURE

images-5      by Dennis Galvin

It is estimated that 50% of the people in the Greater Boston area put their hopes in the MBTA to get them to work every day. This winter the “T” failed them.

There are many to blame. There is the deeply imbedded racketeering culture within “T” management and the employee union. Powerful legislative leaders carefully nurtured this culture over the years foremost was William Bulger. It operates under a simple principle; employees first, citizens second.

There was also the “Big Dig.” A creation of Governor Michael Dukakis and Congressman Tip ONeil, it resulted in the payout of $14B to Boston’s construction unions and contractors. Addressing strategic transportation needs got lost in the frenzy to reward political constituencies. Imagine the transit system we could have had if the “Big Dig” had included a mass transit overhaul as its centerpiece. Alas, the constituents, who were served, did highway, not mass transit construction. There were promises made by the Dukakis administration to the Conservation Law Foundation committing the “T” to significant expansion without identifying funding sources.

There were failures of successive Governors, both Republican and Democrat, who dodged the problems at the “T” Each shied away from imposing effective management practices and increasing employee accountability because the political cost was too high.

Finally, there is our legislature. As the “crème de la crème” of patronage havens, the political clout of MBTA employees and contractors is legendary. Members of the Greater Boston delegation know that “T” employees are a force to be reckoned with; they have chosen not to reckon. This is why the legislature dragged its feet on releasing “T” pension information during the last legislative session, and why they have consistently balked at establishing independent financial oversight over the agency.

The MBTA is proof that when a government agency gets too large and lacks oversight, it becomes an interest unto itself. You, the taxpayer not only lose your revenue, you also lose service. To be sure, there are hundreds of individual “T” employees, who work hard to serve the public, but as an organization, the “T” has unquestionably failed.   Only a radical and drastic transformation of our transit services can fix this.   This transformation can be summed up in one word receivership.

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