Where Does the MBTA Go From Here?
The MBTA is proposing two scenarios under which it would raise fares in order to close its budget gap. There was a time when I would have gotten riled up and fought this. Now the funding problems just tire me. I feel myself turning into a detached observer. "Why can't they just fix it?", I mumble as I read the headline in the paper over the shoulder of a fellow commuter.

I still take public transit to work. The D-line and an MWRTA bus have taken over for the commuter rail, but I'm still fighting the good fight. Thinking we would move to the suburbs Carol and I bought a car in 2010. We didn't move and in the meantime I've driven a little bit more in the past year and a half. When I do drive it only convinces me more of this country's need for effective public transit - both for commuting and longer high speed travel. The productivity lost while Americans wait in traffic is astounding. It's easily in the billions of dollars a year. Think what Americans could do with an hour on a train with a wi-fi connection. Or think about that as an hour of doing nothing instead of an agitating car ride. I think the isolation and stress of a drive weighs on our health as well.

There are certainly drawbacks to such a system. It would certainly cost a lot. Don't let me fool you, it's still aggravating riding the T. More of us would be giving up the control of our daily commute to a government agency or a private corporation. We'd lose some flexibility in our daily lives and we'd lose that sense of freedom that having a car gives. With the drawbacks and the entrenched automobile culture and infrastructure it would be hard to convince enough people to make the change. As our big cities continue to grow though I still think that American society in the future is going to need something like this though.

But back to the immediate problem. One MBTA proposal tries to spread the fare increases around while the other attempts to eliminate low use routes. This is a simplification of what's happening (even the lower fare increase plan raises prices 35%) but it does indicate two different philosophies. In the former scenario the MBTA tries to serve a large area for general transportation needs, not just the work commute. In the former the MBTA focuses on high traffic routes and peak times. I'm extrapolating. Furthermore, some of the changes being proposed - like eliminating night and weekend service on the commuter rail, weekend service on several T lines, and daily ferry service - start pushing the MBTA toward the latter even more. Maybe the MBTA retreats a little bit, strengthens its core, then expands slowly. It could be a smaller, more effective service. Maybe it could cede some of the outer bus routes to other transit authorities like the MWRTA. The problem I see with that is cutting service on the fringes essentially cedes that area to automobiles, especially if no other transit authority is ready to step in. If and when the train or bus does makes its return the area will be more of a driving culture. It's tough to break people from that. Keep in mind this is all speculation from someone who doesn't study anything beyond how long it takes him to get from Longwood to Woodland on the D line.

Most people are going to complain the loudest about the fare hikes. No doubt the fare hikes are going to hurt. An extra $21 a month for a Link Pass will only suck for me. The poor, on the other hand, will feel a lot of pressure. New York City's fares aren't comparable because of the different in size and efficacy of the two systems, but it is somewhat valid to bring Boston more in line with what is going on in other cities. But I think what's interesting is what this could mean for the reach of the MBTA.
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