Money for nothing: Still dire straits at the MBTA

Reforms alone aren’t going to cut it for the MB (as in “broke”) TA. That’s the song MBTA general manger Dan Grabauskas has been singing for years.

Asked this morning as he headed into a legislative briefing if there are specific reforms that could be delivered in time to avert draconian cuts, Grabauskas served up this riff: “Whether it's a conjunction or a preposition, reform and revenue need to be in the same sentence." That's the GM's diplomatic way of saying lawmakers must choose between the conjunction "and" (as in "reform and revenue") and the preposition "before" ("reform before revenue").  

Next year’s deficit is a whopping $161 million. With the still-being-tweaked fiscal 2010 MBTA budget on the horizon, tales of doom and gloom from the indebted agency are common as delays in service.

But several heaping portions of gloom are on the table, including a 30 percent fare hike (which would make Boston’s $2.21 subway fare higher than New York’s) and 50 percent cuts in night and weekend service, along with eliminating the 20 least performing bus routes.

Imagine, said MassPIRG’s Eric Bourassa, a Red Sox game serviced by half the usual number of Green Line trains. A chilling thought indeed.

Perhaps the meeting organized by Rep. Carl Sciortino, (D-Medford), vice chair of the transporation committee, and Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge) will help legislators, especially metro Boston lawmakers,  get on board with how bad things could get. Or they could just ride the Red Line, preferably when there is a switching problem at JFK/UMass.

(The Transportation Finance Commission has had the best take on this unholy mess crisis for months, but sadly they are shaping up to be the Cassandras of this jaw-dropping complex political drama.)

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Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

By the way, just what was message from Grabauskas, chief financial officer Jonathan Davis and the rest of the T financial team? (Gas tax anyone? Just a guess.)

We’ll never know. The 10 a.m. meeting was abruptly closed to the news media.