Is consensus emerging on what MBTA needs?

Michelle Wu and Paul Regan took very different positions on the MBTA fare increase, but they both agree on the big picture needs of the transit authority.

Regan, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said on CommonWealth’s Codcast that the $29 million derived from the fare increase approved by the Fiscal and Management Control Board last Monday is needed just to cover a small wage increase for union employees, not to mention rising costs for commuter rail, paratransit service, and other operations. “They’ve spent the entire fare increase already,” he said.

Wu, the Boston city councilor, presented a petition to the control board calling for no fare hike, free passes for students and seniors, and selective bus routes operated fare-free. Wu said it made no sense to raise fares and lose riders at a time when congestion is pervasive and climate change is looming.

“When we focus on merely the budget and the numbers in front of us year after year, it’s easier to be stuck in a conversation about do we do a 6 percent fare hike or a 3 percent one, or can we exempt this or that group, rather than saying we need to get to a fully acceptable transit system and what do we do to get there?” Wu said.

Wu, who has separately raised the idea of doing away with MBTA fares entirely, said she thought there was a “sliver of chance” the board might take a stand last week and say no to a fare increase. But she said her goal in pushing her proposals was to reset the conversation. “It’s important that we’re talking about the right goal ultimately, even if that goal won’t happen tomorrow. Even if it won’t happen next year. Even if it takes 50 years from now, which is the time scale that we’re talking about for a lot of this climate planning,” she said.

Both Wu and Regan said it seemed like last Monday’s meeting of the control board was a pivotal one. Board members expressed frustration about the pace of improvement at the T and agreed to develop some sort of statement about the need for the Legislature to raise additional transportation revenues. The revenue options board members cited were raising the fees paid by ride-hailing apps, hiking the gas tax, and imposing congestion fees. All of those options are opposed by Gov. Charlie Baker, who appointed the control board members.

“It feels like we’re in a different place and a different energy now than before this last public process,” Wu said. “Now we have demonstrated such momentum and such public attention on the need to get to a place where we’re talking about the big picture fixes for the system.”

Regan, who has been attending T oversight board meetings for more than a decade, said last Monday’s meeting was very different from the others. “This meeting was the members of the FMCB getting up on their hind legs and saying enough,” he said. “What you heard and what the people in the audience heard was a lack of conviction that anybody can see the progress that they’re making, that it’s invisible to the typical rider.”

Of the three revenue options mentioned by control board members, Regan said he favors an increase in the gas tax with a large chunk of the revenue going to the T. Wu likes all three revenue options, but she believes a portion of the new money has to go for improving public transit, including expensive proposals such as regional rail and electrification of the system.

By the end of the Codcast, Wu and Regan seemed to be in general agreement. They agreed the T needed more revenue now (Wu felt the new revenue should not come from riders) and they agreed the T needs more revenue to achieve its long-term goals. Regan said he agrees with Wu that public officials need to look beyond the existing budget debate, asking where the T should be five years from now.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Samarth Gupta, who grew up in Acton and is currently studying at Oxford, says Massachusetts should embrace 21st century gun control measures. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Bourne selectmen voted unanimously recently to request a modification to the Buzzards Bay Growth Incentive Zone from the Cape Cod Commission, including an elimination of land protection measures. (Cape Cod Times)

The accusations against Robert Kraft in Florida involving sexual acts for money, is fueling a look at widespread human trafficking in Massachusetts. (Herald News) Three teenage leaders at My Life My Choice, a nonprofit working to end commercial sexual exploitation of children that has received funding from the New England Patriots Foundation and support from Kraft, pen an “open letter” to johns who buy sex. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt says President Trump is to blame for the rise in white-nationalist violence.

A weight-loss start-up company that US Rep. Seth Moulton used to be a part of his political resume, but those references were deleted after the company went bust and left lots of debt in its wake. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Hillary Chabot suggests that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will endorse Joe Biden over the home state candidate, Elizabeth Warren, should the former VP join the Democratic race for president, but she seems to base it on a joke Walsh told at yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. (Boston Herald)

As he eyes a presidential campaign, Congressman Seth Moulton could face a challenge for his congressional seat as 28-year-old Christopher Fisher, a carpenter from Rockport who is an independent, plans to run.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Software engineer Brianna Wu, who challenged Rep. Steve Lynch last year and has already announced plans to run against him again in the 2020 Democratic primary, pens a Globe op-ed applauding Elizabeth Warren’s call to break-up big tech companies like Facebook and Google.

The newest health-benefit claim for marijuana? A Worcester startup plans to market a cannabis gel as a “sexual enhancement” aid for women. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A new study concludes there has been no improvement over the last 50 years in closing the academic achievement gap separating students from disadvantaged homes from those growing up in well-off households. (Boston Globe)

Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, proposes a “third way” on the school funding/accountability debate. (CommonWealth)

The manipulation of special accommodations for standardized tests exposed by prosecutors in the college admissions scandal has prompted worries that needed accommodations for students with learning disabilities will become harder to secure than they already are. (WBUR)

The Eagle-Tribune suggests North Andover public schools may have violated its own policies in how it handled an alleged off-campus sexual assault last year, and Superintendent Gregg Gilligan still isn’t commenting on the situation. Meanwhile the Massachusetts Association of School Committees is working on developing a model policy for sexual harassment.

Gov. Charlie Baker gave some indication he might re-appoint Stephanie Cronin to the Middlesex Community College Board of Trustees, but also praised Jim Campanini, the former Lowell Sun editor who is reportedly in the running for the post. (Lowell Sun)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Paul Hattis of Tufts University Medical School says one way to make health premiums more affordable for lower-income workers is to have wealthier workers subsidize their payments. (CommonWealth)

Springfield mental health therapists have noticed an uptick in gambling among their clients, who may be going to the MGM casino as a way to cope with stress or depression, and possibly as an alternative to substance abuse. (New England Public Radio)

New CEO Michael Carson is working to get Harvard Pilgrim Health Care onto firmer financial footing. (Boston Globe

Quincy is on the cutting edge of efforts to protect the health and safety of firefighters and is spending $1 million on showers and other cleaning equipment to keep firefighters safe from exploding rates of cancer. (Patriot Ledger)

ARTS/CULTURE

Liz Byron, an art teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston, says the city’s budget threatens vital arts programming. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

National security concerns are rising as more and more transit authorities, including the MBTA, strike deals with CRRC, the Chinese rail car maker. (Governing)

Will Beacon Hill finally take action to inject more money into the MBTA and transportation needs in the state? (Boston Globe)

Some in the technology industry were pushing for flying taxis at the South by Southwest festival, and Uber has a timeline of four years to get something similar off the ground. (NPR)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

US Attorney Andrew Lelling sues the city of Quincy for dumping raw sewage into Boston Harbor. (CommonWealth)

Nearly 50 officials from southeastern Massachusetts press the Baker administration to change the procurement rules for offshore wind farms, giving a higher priority to onshore infrastructure investments. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Ten men who say they were involuntarily committed to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth are suing several state agencies and officials, claiming their rights were violated. (Patriot Ledger)

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office says a New Bedford woman was indicted Friday by a Plymouth County Grand Jury on a charge she had sexual relations with an inmate while she worked as a corrections officer. (Herald News)

MEDIA

As regional newspapers retrench and abandon coverage of Washington, media critic Margaret Sullivan wonders what lawmakers are getting away with. (Washington Post)

Public access community television stations, which are funded through assessments on cable TV companies and were already facing cuts because of “cord-cutters” getting rid of cable service, could see a huge drop in funding from a proposal the Federal Communications Commission is considering. (Boston Globe)