Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Study Group Reports that MBTA Requires Another Study

Governor Patrick’s knee-jerk approach to the MBTA yielded a slick, graphics-laden report.  His special committee of four “authors/researchers” released their bombshell conclusion that … wait for it … someone else should make another study of the MBTA.  Preferably that someone will be more important than the four “authors/researchers” who wrote this report.  They recommended that the next study should be by someone at a “high-level” in “MassDOT.”

Query: what have the “high-level” people at “MassDOT” been doing all this time?  And why weren’t they involved in this particular study which was initiated by no less than his Excellency the Governor.

Overall, the report was a disappointing exercise in stating the obvious as if it was being noticed for the first time.  Proverbially, lots of trees and very little forest.  But then again perhaps that is all that could be expected from four lower-level “authors/researchers” in a short sixty-day window of time.

I would have been pleased to have seen some more comprehensive thought about what ought to be, both in terms of services and finances.  Is Boston receiving the transit services that it needs?  Practically speaking, how can services be maintained or improved while cutting costs?  Where are the inefficiencies?  The report did not make even a baby step in that direction.  It defies credulity that all the low-hanging fruit really was picked.

What about removing door-openers on the Red Line?  If the MBTA was in such dire shape, why all the excess attention to prettying stations and broken air conditioning units in the past few years?  Was the Silver Line tunnel-to-nowhere at South Station the massive costly mistake that it appears?  What would be the cost savings from standardizing all of the multiple vehicles from the Green, Orange, Blue, and Red lines (all of which are different)?

As for financing, the solution seems obvious and perhaps it already is being implemented.  The MBTA simply should operate transit services, and those services should be near-fully funded by fares.  If a bus costs $3 to operate, riders should pay.  On the other hand, infrastructure should be 100% funded and maintained by other sources and those projects and monies should be outside the direct control of the MBTA.  That appears to be at least part of the theory of the recent reform legislation that created MassDOT.  The challenge, of course, would be in the details.

The content of the report was unimpressive … but the format and web site sure were snappy!