Transportation without observation is tyranny!

I’m a big fan of early American history (1770’s to 1800 or so), and especially of what went on in Boston during that time, so I couldn’t resist a riff on “taxation without representation” in a post about Boston’s beloved T.  It’s of particular interest to me partly because I’ve ridden the T a bunch as a frequent visitor and former student in the New England region, but partly because it’s about funding:

“The idea at the time was to give the T a fixed annual subsidy, abandoning the unwieldy practice of using state money to pay off MBTA expenses at the end of each year. The concept, wrote D’Alessandro, was laudable. But the state underestimated the agency’s expenses by $558 million between 2000 and 2008, he wrote, because of unrealistic projections for operating costs that were outside the T’s control.

For example, the original plan left no money for workers’ health care cost increases, even though they grew by 73 percent in the first eight years. The T, the state’s largest electricity customer, saw fuel and utility costs more than double over the same period.

To balance the books, managers deferred debt payments, masking the size of the T’s problems, D’Alessandro concludes.”

Elected officials, in my view, are much less interested in touting funding for necessary (or even more than is necessary) maintenance than they are for brand-new shiny projects.  That’s understandable; it’s harder to see or experience the value of maintenance than it is to experience the value of new infrastructure.  But as we’ve seen in countless cases, it’s so critical to fund maintenance and is worlds cheaper to fund than new projects.

And you would think when so many electeds champion funding for safety in general (usually cops, etc.), they would champion more funding for safety in transportation proactively, rather than reactively.  Let’s hope.


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