Death spiral in Worcester?

In Worcester, officials are worried that their transit agency may be in the midst of a death spiral.

With state funding trending downward the last four years, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority has had to make some very tough choices. In fiscal 2017, the transit agency cut service and raised fares. This year, the agency is facing a deficit of $900,000, and preparing to cut service again on some of its most popular bus routes. Not surprisingly, the combination of higher fares and lower service has led to a 13 percent decline in ridership during the first half of fiscal 2018.

“It’s a spiral downward,” said William Lehtola, the chairman of the transit authority’s advisory board. “Basically the WRTA will cease to exist in a few years if we continue this.”

“I would concur with that, yes,” said Jonathan Church, the WRTA administrator.

Worcester is not alone. The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority are also looking at fare increases, service cuts, or some combination of both.

According to the Telegram & Gazette, the state’s regional transit authorities had expected their combined $80 million in state funding to rise steadily to $86 million by 2018. Instead, the agencies received a total of $82 million in both 2016 and 2017 and $80.4 million in fiscal 2018. Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed level-funding the regional transit authorities at $80.4 million  in 2019. [CLARIFICATION: State transportation officials objected to this story’s characterization that regional transit authority funding was trending down over the last four years. They cited RTA funding from the state at $80 million in fiscal year 2015 and noted that the governor’s budget for fiscal 2019 is level funded at $80.4 million, a slight increase over 2015. The story, however, never mentioned fiscal 2015 funding and focused entirely on fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2019.]

James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation who now serves on the board of TransitMatters, said what’s happening to the regional transit authorities is shameful because they serve some of the state’s most vulnerable residents and provide service in places that are typically not reachable except by car.

“Everyone in the Commonwealth who cares about sustainable mobility and social and regional equity should find this situation unacceptable,” he said.



State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s unclaimed money division is being overwhelmed with claims and struggling to keep up. (CommonWealth)

Interns working for lawmakers on Beacon Hill are not covered by sexual harassment policies, a situation that some of the lawmakers are determined to change. (Salem News)

Attorney General Maura Healey joins the chorus of state officials urging the Cannabis Control Commission to go slow on licensing operations other than retail pot shops. (MassLive)

The state’s trial court released a report on the diversity of its workforce. (MassLive)


Quincy cemetery officials will erect a plaque to memorialize hundreds of stillborn infants buried in unmarked graves in Mount Wollaston Cemetery. (Patriot Ledger)

Falmouth selectmen are pushing Eversource to remove a series of old utility poles in the middle of  recently constructed sidewalk that are obsolete with newer poles installed beside the walkway. (Cape Cod Times)


Long before he allegedly gunned down 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, there were numerous signs that Nikolas Cruz posed a threat, including a social media post that said he wanted to be a “professional school shooter.” (New York Times) The Broward County Sheriff said Cruz, who dropped his AR-15 and backpack of ammunition after the slaughter to run out and blend in with the fleeing crowd before being captured, confessed to the massacre,. (Associated Press) Fear takes hold in Massachusetts schools. (Boston Globe) Fall River officials increased police presence at Durfee High School after an anonymous social media post warned students not to go to classes and threatening “Florida pt. 2.” (Herald News)

A Globe editorial rips the gun lobby and its allies in Congress and urges readers to contact lawmakers whose change of position on gun laws could make a difference. The Herald also calls for action on gun laws. Joe Battenfeld says Congress needs to consider new gun control measures, but he blames both sides for the stalemate. (Boston Herald)

ICYMI: Cerberus Capital Management said it was going to sell its Remington gun manufacturing business after a gunman used one of the firm’s rifles in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. But the private equity firm couldn’t find a buyer for Remington so it moved the gunmaker out of its funds and let investors cash out. Earlier this week, Remington, saddled with debt, filed for bankruptcy.

Hopes of a bipartisan solution to immigration fell apart as the Senate ended up killing four measures and failing to engage in the promised free-wheeling debate on the issue. (New York Times)


UMass Boston professor Maurice Cunningham criticizes the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance’s defense of dark money. (CommonWealth)

Former Newton mayor Setti Warren, one of three Democrats seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, throws his support behind Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in her congressional primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano. (Boston Globe)

Mitt happens: Romney makes it official and says he’s running for Senate in Utah. (Associated Press)


Airbnb said it will reimburse the owner of a Framingham home for damages after police responded to a rowdy party of more than 200 people that resulted in several injuries, including a police officer. Framingham officials said the incident will result in regulations for short-term rentals. (MetroWest Daily News)

Astra Zeneca’s decision to close a manufacturing plant in Westboro is causing residential tax bills to rise sharply. (Telegram & Gazette)

The three sons of Norman Rockwell drop their litigation against the Berkshire Museum, which agreed in a settlement with Attorney General Maura Healey to keep one of their father’s paintings accessible to the public. (Berkshire Eagle)

McDonald’s announced it is removing cheeseburgers and chocolate milk from its Happy Meal menu for kids to reduce sodium, sugars, and saturated fats and lower the calorie count. (U.S. News & World Report)

Some ALS patients are angry about the way the ALS Association is spending the $115 million raised from the phenomenon of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which started with former BC baseball player Pete Frates. (MarketWatch)


Worcester school officials signaled that they intend to join Brockton in suing the state over its school funding formula. (Telegram & Gazette)

Could “porn literacy” classes help teens develop healthier attitudes toward sex? (Boston Globe)


The Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project has removed more than 4,600 old tires from towns around the region, including nearly 4,000 from a former auto repair site in Norwell, to eliminate prime breeding ground for the insects. (Patriot Ledger)


Attorney General Maura Healey unveiled new renewable energy goals and clarified her position on building new natural gas pipelines. (CommonWealth)

New research shows countries around the world are falling short of their climate change goals and the result will be unprecedented extreme weather. (Time)

A low magnitude earthquake shook things up Thursday morning in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. (Eagle-Tribune)


A separation agreement between Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts spelled out that the former chairman and CEO of the company will receive no severance pay and be barred from competing against his old firm for two years. The agreement also notes that if Wynn Resorts stops using the Wynn name and trademark the rights to the name will revert to Steve Wynn.

A WBUR poll indicates Massachusetts voters are split on what to do with the $2.4 billion Wynn Resorts casino under construction in Everett now that the company’s chairman and CEO has stepped down in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. Fifty percent of those polled said the project should go forward, 23 percent said it should go forward only if another company takes over the project, and 20 percent said the project should be halted. (WBUR)


The Boston Herald may have survived, but that may be the only good  thing to say. The Globe delivers a harsh one-two punch reality check on what’s likely to come next, with a business section story saying winning bidder Digital First Media is likely to make cuts well beyond the 60 or so positions expected to be eliminated after the sale concludes, while Joshua Benton, director of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, writes in an op-ed that “short of setting the place on fire, being bought by Digital First is about the worst outcome possible” and that we’re likely to witness “the newspaper equivalent of strip mining.”

A New York federal judge ruled that the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New England Sports Network, Time, Vox, Breitbart, and three other publications violated the copyright of a 2016 photo of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge by embedding a tweet containing the photo on their websites. (Hollywood Reporter)


Fifty years ago today, the first 911 emergency call was made. (MetroWest Daily News)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Regarding Worcester’s intent to join Brockton in suing the state over its school funding formula, a school committee member was quoted: The state’s funding formula distributing aid to local public school districts is “no longer sufficient to provide the constitutionally guaranteed” education students in Massachusetts should receive. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette article didn’t mention there are at least seven other program areas the state is not meeting its financial obligations to public school districts:
    #1 The Massachusetts School Building Authority is underfunded because 82 applications for public schools renovation or replacement projects were received in 2017 and only 15 were approved to go forward to the funding process leaving 67 school building projects unfunded. Right now, 98 public schools K-12 facilities have more than 10% of their classrooms in temporary spaces. In other words, there are more school building projects than funding available.
    #2 Charter schools drain funding from public schools exceeding $500,000,000 a year.
    #3 The charter school reimbursement formula is broken and underfunded.
    #4 2,440 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in local public schools over the past three and a half months and all Governor Charlie Baker has done was to award a grand total of $60,000 to twelve schools districts working out to $8.47 for each of the 590 students enrolled in Springfield.
    #5 The state is not fully funding the special education Circuit Breaker program. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation determined the state is only funding this Circuit Breaker program at a level of 65%. Guess who’s picking up the rest of the costs? Property taxpayers.
    #6 The state is not meeting its obligation to pick up the costs for transporting homeless students.
    #7 The state is not fully funding regional transportation costs. And regarding those regional public school district transportation costs, a 1949 law requires the state to pay those transportation costs. According to a recent MassLive article, “Massachusetts’ regional school districts face $17 million state funding shortfall,” the “last time regional transportation costs were fully funded was more than 15 years ago.”
    The state legislature and Governor Charlie Baker need to be held accountable for not fully funding public school districts in Massachusetts.