Gov. Baker has put out his initial MBTA fix. It strikes me as a bit of a modest proposal.
They’re tinkering with the MBTA’s senior structure, which might net results, but that’s not a guarantee. Eliminating $500 million in planned funding strikes me as counterproductive for an agency that’s as cash-strapped at the MBTA, and removing the cap on fare increases is a potential Pandora’s Box.
Yet my two main thoughts are this:
First, the MBTA has been crushed under the weight of $…3.35 billion in legacy and Big Dig debt that Gov. Baker helped assign to it when he worked in the Cellucci administration. It was a forward funding plan based on a projection of sales tax growth that did not materialize. The annual debt service for the MBTA is $424 million. The money isn’t there to pay it. Those projects originally were supposed to be paid from the general state fund and the idea that the MBTA could cover those debts has not worked. Unburdening the agency of that debt is the most direct way to free up the money for desperately needed service improvements.
Second, best business practices should dictate the MBTA does not raise its fares until it improves its service. If you ran a car company that made unreliable vehicles, you wouldn’t be able to get away with jacking up your prices with the promise that you’ll start making better cars after this batch of clunkers. Fare increases should be predicated on better service.