T notes: Board ends alcohol ad ban

Shortsleeve breaks deadlock, measure passes 3-2

THE MBTA’s OVERSIGHT BOARD voted 3-2 on Monday to approve a 3.5-month test of alcohol advertising inside subway stations, on billboards, and at bus shelters.

The T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board failed to approve a new alcohol advertising policy at its meeting last week, deadlocking on a 2-2 vote. The tie was broken on Monday when Brian Shortsleeve, who missed last week’s meeting, cast the deciding vote. Board chairman Joseph Aiello and Brian Lang remained opposed, while Steve Poftak and Monica Tibbits-Nutt supported the introduction of alcohol ads.

The approval means the T can start running static ads plugging alcohol on paper and digital displays inside most subway stations, on T billboards, and at bus shelters. Nine subways stations – Ashmont, Shawmut, Fields Corner, Savin Hill, JFK/UMass, Ruggles, Jackson Square, Forest Hills, and Roxbury Crossing – were excluded because 10 percent of the average weekday ridership consists of students.

If the initial test is successful, T officials said, the digital displays might be allowed to carry video ads and a maximum of 15 trains at any one time could be wrapped with alcohol ads. The actual vote taken by the control board, however, indicated 15 trains could be wrapped immediately with alcohol ads during the initial phase of the test.

Brian Lang, who led opposition to the reintroduction of alcohol ads (they were banned in 2012), sought on Monday to delay the vote on the initiative but lost on a 3-2 vote.

“This is really just a foot in the door,” said Lang, who warned that the test is really just the start of an ever-expanding alcohol advertising initiative at the T.  “We’ll get more money and there will be a negative social impact,” said Lane. “We’re better than that.”

T to seek private bidders for overnight bus

The Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday authorized T officials to seek private-sector bidders for an overnight bus service that would run from 1 a.m. until 4 a.m. every day, and board members indicated they would be open to offering the service for free.

The T put a similar service out to bid earlier this year and got no takers. Officials hope to entice a company to step forward this time by dispensing with the need to collect fares and allowing the use of smaller vehicles capable of carrying as few as 15 passengers.

As currently envisioned, the service would follow two existing bus routes, one between Chelsea and downtown and the other between Mattapan and downtown. The service, designed primarily to help low-wage workers come to and from jobs in the middle of the night, would operate every 30 minutes using approximately six buses.

Officials earlier projected that the service would cost the T nearly $2.1 million, or a subsidy of $27 per passenger, much higher than the $13 to $15 subsidy for similar bus service during normal T hours. The earlier projections forecasted fare revenue of just $37,875 over the course of a year, and members of the control board indicated they were willing to forego that revenue if costs could be lowered substantially. Private bus operators have indicated they would be unwilling to install T fare machines on their vehicles.

Pollack: Developers should document transit impacts

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said she is encouraging state environmental officials to seek information on public transit impacts before approving real estate projects.

As they go through the state’s environmental review process, Pollack said, most real estate projects are required to provide documentation on the automobile traffic they will generate and the traffic’s impact on surrounding roadways and communities. Developers are often required to mitigate that impact.

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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.

Pollack said environmental reviews rarely consider the impact of a project on public transit. “We sort of treated the T as an infinite sink for riders, particularly bus riders,” she said.

One exception was the Wynn Resorts casino project in Revere, she said. As part of the environmental review for that project, the casino was shown to have an impact on Orange Line ridership. Wynn agreed to mitigate that impact by providing $7.5 million over 15 years to assign more trains to the line to speed up service.