Can the T do anything right?
Perhaps we should consider changing the name of the public transit agency from MBTA to MPTA, for Massachusetts Piñata Transportation Authority. From public records to the new casino industry, the T is like a third rail to all it touches these days.
The most recent in the daily entries of MBTA faux pas is the sale of a tiny strip of land on the Boston-Everett line to Wynn Resorts that top Baker administration officials say was rushed through before the required environmental and traffic review was complete. It’s probably the first time in recent memory the MBTA has been accused of being early.
The T sold 1.75 acres to Wynn last month for $6 million, a sale that enables the company to build an access road to its casino without having to go through Boston, thus removing a good deal of leverage in negotiations from the city. Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo has been complaining about the sale since it first surfaced a few months back.
Emails obtained by the Boston Globe from Deirdre Buckley, director of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to T and Wynn officials say a number of state regulations were violated in the expedited sale. Buckley says in the emails that she and Matthew Beaton, energy and environmental affairs secretary, will take the dicey land sale into consideration when they issue the final environmental review. Though Wynn officials downplayed the issue as a bureaucratic kerfuffle between state agencies, nothing is a given when it involves the MBTA these days.
While the Globe had the Wynn story, the Boston Herald continued its own drumbeat on the refusal of any agency with an uppercase “T” to release public records. The tab has been hammering the MBTA Police Association Retirement Plan for denying a public records request for its payroll, claiming it is a private pension fund despite receiving more than $2 million in funding from the MBTA.
The Herald also slams the T for claiming the massive number of canceled bus routes were weather-related. Not so much, says the paper. An analysis by reporter Erin Smith found that of the nearly 40,000 missed bus trips last year (and that number by itself is mind-boggling), the majority were due to employee absences, not weather delays or mechanical problems.
Though T officials blamed the heavy snow and aging equipment for the massive disappearance of buses, 72 percent of the 7,417 missed trips in February were caused by absent employees. Less than 9 percent were caused by mechanical failures.
While February, with its record-breaking snowfall, had the highest rate of missed trips, guess what the second-highest month was. That would be the weather-challenged month of August when nearly 90 percent of the 4,500 missed bus trips were caused by lack of employees, not lack of working buses.
With these stories coming as MBTA officials are subjected to verbal beatings before legislative committee hearings on budget and transportation issues, the public transit agency continues to take a battering as bad it got during the height of the blizzards. No subject, it seems, is safe if the MBTA has its name attached to it.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the half-century-old authority. Robin Washington, a contributing columnist on transportation matters to the Globe, penned a piece under the headline “10 things the MBTA doesn’t need to fix.” The column, though, feels more like “damning with faint praise,” when it includes items such as “4. Better smelling than New York,” and “3. You probably won’t die.”
And the number 1 thing the T doesn’t need to fix? The logo with the “T” inside the circle. Hey, you take your victories where you can get them.
Attorney General Maura Healey says she is going to be cracking down on doctors and “pill mill” clinics that are illegally subscribing addictive drugs. (Boston Herald)
The beleaguered Connector says it sent out wrong tax information to thousands of people in January. (Boston Herald)
Advocates in Boston are urging the Walsh administration to take advantage of the city’s booming economy and raise the “linkage” fees charged to developers that then go to fund affordable housing and job training programs.
Boston plans to expand its ParkBoston app so that all parking meters in the city can be paid using a smartphone app.
A North Quincy homeowner who was the final resident refusing to sell his house to the city to make way for a parking lot and sports field for North Quincy High School has reached a deal to sell the home to the city.
The Globe digs in to try to make sense of the strange unraveling of Rev. Shaun Harrison from preacher to accused violent predator.
The zeal for public conversations has spread to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, never a paragon of transparency. The agency is holding two public meetings on extending urban renewal plans.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh joined the chorus of those gently — or not so gently — suggesting a new, diminished role for construction honcho John Fish in the city’s Olympic bid. “It’s an opportunity now — I wouldn’t say necessarily to push him aside,” Walsh told the Herald, while then essentially suggesting just that. Later yesterday, in what the Herald characterized as an attempt “to walk back Walsh’s earlier comments,” the mayor’s office issued a statement saying he was not calling for Fish to step down as Boston 2024 chairman.
Evan Falchuk explains why voters should approve a binding law barring public money being used for the Olympics. (WBUR)
The Dorchester Reporter is launching a weekly e-newsletter, dubbed “The Relay,” which will gather up news on all things Olympics-related.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey has been indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly trading favors for vacations, golf outings, campaign contributions, and air flights.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson switches course on his state’s Indiana-style religious freedom bill. (Governing)
A Republican pollster reminds the GOP that anti-gay sentiments don’t get mileage with voters under 30.
A huge development project being proposed for Andrew Square would bring about 700 housing units to a mostly forlorn industrial area of the South Boston neighborhood.
Quincy-based women’s clothing retailer J. Jill, which has 250 stores nationwide, has been sold once again.
The New Republic’s Danny Vinik says the announcement by McDonald’s that it is raising wages for 90,000 employees is a function of the improving economy and tightening labor market, not the “Fight for $15” campaign to raise wages for low-paid workers.
A federal civil rights commissioner tells officials in Lynn that they can’t discriminate againstGordon College because of its position on gays and lesbians. (Item)
State education secretary James Peyser talks about his plan to increase the number of charter schools and says there are already enough resources available to close the achievement gap.
The superintendent of the Chelmsford schools, Frank Tiano, is shown the door. (Lowell Sun)
Eleven former educators in Atlanta are convicted in a cheating scandal. (Time)
In a striking example of an extension of income inequality, the Globe reports that as many as 20 percent of residents in some Massachusetts neighborhoods have no health insurance, while other Census tracts have no one living there without coverage.
The Massachusetts State Police say there were 217 suspected heroin overdose deaths during the first three months of the year, not including the state’s three largest cities which report separately. (Associated Press)
The state is having trouble collecting tolls from people who cross the Tobin Bridge and are charged via photographs of their license plates. Less than half of the $2.7 million in pay-by-plate fees have been collected, and $3.2 million in late fees and other charges are outstanding. (Salem News)
Western Mass says don’t forget about us in MBTA funding debate.
Drive and text? That would be $500 please, if Rep. Cory Atkins, the Concord Democrat. prevails with new measure would raise fines for people who fail to use hands-free devices.
Green energy advocates are urging quick passage of legislation to raise the state cap on “net metering,” a program that allows large-scale solar development projects, both private and municipally-run, to earn credits for unused power they generate and send back to the electric grid as the cap is hit for projects in the area served by National Grid. CommonWealth has written extensively about the net metering program, including in this 2013 overview of state solar initiatives.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has imposed a statewide mandatory water restriction to deal with the nearly four-year drought that is reaching the crisis stage.
Brayton Point power plant in Somerset has been sold to a Houston-based energy corporation as part of a bigger deal, while the owners of the town’s other power plant, Montaup Station, made a land deal with National Grid, which paid off a delinquent $250,000 tax bill to the town.
The MBTA is planning to erect a 200-foot wind turbine in Bridgewater to help offset energy costs along nearby rail lines.
Entrance fees at some national parks will increase this summer after a six-year moratorium, though the hike will bring in only a fraction of the estimated $11.5 billion needed for maintenance and repairs for roads, trails, and park buildings.
A Bridgewater State University student enrolled in the school’s early childhood education program has been charged with raping two children at the college’s day care center.
A house in Carver where the roof was suspiciously free of snow this winter while neighboring homes were buried led police to a marijuana growing operation.
Ken Doctor says a coast-to-coast newspaper shuffle is taking place. (Nieman Journalism Lab)
Anyone with a smartphone can now be an Internet broadcaster, writes the Globe’s Hiawatha Bray. Showing something worth people’s time to watch is another thing.Boston’s Madison Park HIgh School gets honorable mention in a White House film competition for students.
Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh talks about the state of the field with CJR.