Monday, February 18, 2008

Like we needed proof that the T sucked?

Returning to my Boston roots a there's proof of what many MBTA commuters have known for years: the T routinely and secretly cancels runs of various bus routes because they don't have the resources to actually make all the runs their schedule claims they do. What's worse, they've been doing it for years, no doubt many more than the two years that current MBTA GM Dan Grabauskas admits has been happening under his watch.

Remember kids, Dan was hired because supposedly he's a reformer. Under his administration, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles was admittedly changed quite a first experiences in 1998 were pretty miserable but by the early 2000's a trip to the Registry wasn't all that bad, especially if you managed to go during "off times". But Grabauskas did very little "reforming" as state transportation secretary, and has done even less as head of the MBTA.

Anyways, supposedly Grabauskas has been working to change this policy of secretly canceling runs...and often stranding riders in the notoriously awful Boston weather...since he arrived. Which to my way of thinking is a ridiculously thin excuse. I mean, granted, this kind of policy indicates corruption at every single level of operation (management and operators) of an organization that it begs the question of where to begin reforming? I can see why a new political appointee who knows damn well what a nest of vipers he's been dumped into is not about to rip a scab off a wound by publicly confirming that everyone at the T is a total slimeball and has been screwing the riders for years. That's a bad way to spend political capital, and a good way to be a very short-term administrator. Conversely, trying to reduce it gradually earns you more political capital you can spend on things that can't be fixed gradually.

But to my way of thinking, that's a logical approach to a situation where logic simply no longer applies. If Grabauskas accepted this job, he should have done so with the ironclad backing of those in power and done so with a mandate to clean up the mess. With that kind of mindset, a giant airing of the dirty laundry right at the beginning would've been more's a perfect excuse to get rid of a lot of dead weight (of which the MBTA has tons of) while rolling off a lot of the inevitable public outrage on the previous GM's of the T. Sure, there'd be a LOT of anger from the rank-n-file at Grabauskas if he'd done that...hence why he'd need the ironclad political backing to make sure people didn't pull end runs with their state reps to get him fired. In the end it would be painful, ugly, and it might not have worked. But at least there was a chance.

Instead Boston has a painfully dysfunctional public transit system that is hemorrhaging money, horribly over-budget, is still losing riders, and is dragging down the local economy in the process.

Now he's got the worst of both worlds: the scandal is out and everyone above and below wants his head on a platter. The MBTA comes off looking even worse than usual (that's no mean feat, itself). And worst of all, there's no groundwork laid to leverage this scandal into embarrassing public officials into providing more funding that the T desperately needs...instead there will be just be demands that the T end the practice regardless of the impact on already-overtaxed resources.


Commute-a-holic said...

Massachusetts seriously needs to have a first-rate public transportation system. The state's growth into the suburbs North, South and West of Boston have meant that there are more drivers on roads that were already at over-capacity to begin with.

Couple that with the fact that the college-age demographic is leaving Massachusetts after they complete their college education and you have a serious issue. Massachusetts is a wonderful state, but it is expensive to live in.

I've been reliant on the MBTA/MBCR commuter rail system as a source of commuting into Boston. What was once a predictable service has morphed into something that is akin to being a nightmare. Fortunately I do not have to depend on the commuter rail for my main source of transportation. But as a taxpayer, I'm sick and tired of the T bellyaching that they are broke and dysfunctional.

While Grabauskas should be lauded for the positive changes he implemented at the Registry, his tenure as head of the T has been nothing short of disgraceful. As a passenger, the T is worse now than it was 15 years ago - and that's saying a lot.

There is no excuse for lying to the public. If bus routes needed to be canceled due to budgetary reasons, then the T should have been honest about it. I've worked for state agencies in the past - they can be effectively managed. But it needs to come from the top down. It can't just be a systematic "well this is how we've done things in the past, so just ignore it" rational.


Anonymous said...

Get ready for the big fare increase by 2009!