Reform before revenue debate rages on

Reform before revenue debate rages on

Setti Warren says MBTA needs more money

DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE SETTI WARREN on Friday rode the Red Line into Boston with a Suffolk University student and afterwards told reporters the state needs to invest more in the MBTA.

“Everyone who rides the T knows this system is broken, it’s inadequate, it’s under-resourced,” said Warren. “The folks that don’t know it are the folks up on Beacon Hill and this governor.”

Warren, who said he doesn’t own a Charlie Card because he can walk to his job as mayor of Newton, rode into Boston from the Wollaston stop on the Braintree Red Line with 20-year-old Ben Chan, a student at Suffolk University. Chan said he sent a tweet inviting Warren to join him after seeing a tweet from the mayor on the need to invest in the T.

Chan said his biggest concern with the T is its unreliability. The trip into town on Friday went smoothly, but Chan said that’s not always the case. Two semesters ago Chan said he left his home at 7:10 a.m. for an 8 a.m. final exam in a literature course; he arrived 10 minutes late for the test. “You can’t really predict how the service is going to run,” he said.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said the MBTA is in the midst of a turnaround, but many of the changes being made at the agency remain largely hidden from riders. New Red and Orange Line cars, for example, have the potential to dramatically change the level of service but won’t start hitting the tracks until 2019. Capital spending has jumped from $522 million in fiscal 2015 to an estimated $795 million this fiscal year, but most of those investments will not pay dividends until years down the line.

Baker has held steadfast that new revenues aren’t needed at the MBTA, even though a special advisory committee he appointed early in his term rejected “the ‘reform vs. revenue’ debate because the MBTA needs both.”

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said in a lengthy interview with CommonWealth this spring that she hasn’t asked for more money for the T “because I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we can make the honest argument on the operating side and the capital side that we’re spending the resources we have in the best way possible.”

Pollack declined comment when asked how she would vote next year on the proposed millionaire’s tax, which would assess a surtax on incomes greater than $1 million and steer the money to transportation and education. Baker has not said how he would vote on the millionaire’s tax, but aides say he “does not support tax increases on our hardworking families.”

Warren said he supports the millionaire’s tax, as do his rivals for the Democratic nomination for governor, Jay Gonzalez and Robert Massie. Warren said the T needs greater funding.

“The governor’s approach to this has been in the last three years an attempt to privatize, an attempt to appoint politically connected people who don’t know anything about transportation, and to not make real investments to make sure we have the right outcomes for people,” he said. He said his reference to politically connected people was a reference to Dan Grabauskas, a former MBTA general manager who was recently hired to oversee commuter rail operations as a $30,000-a-month consultant.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Warren may not ride the T much now, but he said that would change if he is elected. “I would be a governor who would take the T regularly to see how we’re doing,” he said. “That’s the kind of governor we need.”

Baker doesn’t appear to ride the T. Officials say he took the commuter rail from Swampscott to the State House when he worked in the administrations of former governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci and he used public transit when he attended Harvard as an undergraduate student.