The Codcast: Auburndale whistleblowers

Today’s Codcast features the TransitMatters guys who put the brakes on an $11 million MBTA redesign of the Auburndale commuter rail station that was going to improve handicap accessibility but result in poorer service on the Framingham-Worcester Line.

Andy Monat brought the problem to the general public’s attention with an article in CommonWealth that bluntly labeled the situation a mess. The current passenger platform is on the south side of the two tracks of the Worcester-Framingham Line. The station is low-level, meaning passengers have to navigate steps to access the platform and to enter trains. The design had two major drawbacks: handicapped passengers can’t use the stations and passengers can only board trains headed in one direction. So service is only available at the peaks — heading into Boston in the morning and out of Boston at night.

The T addressed only one of the problems with its redesign. The authority made the station handicap accessible and, to appease local concerns, moved the station from the south to the north side of the tracks. But, as Monat pointed out in his article, that meant the T had to spend more than $6 million on switches to bring trains coming out of the station over to the other track because the other Newton stations on the line were still located on the south side of the tracks.

Monat pointed out that it would make more sense to put handicap-accessible platforms on both sides of the tracks. That way trains coming into and out of the city could stop at Auburndale. It would cost more to build the two platforms, but the money saved by dispensing with the switching equipment would make it nearly a wash, he said.

The MBTA hasn’t committed to anything yet, but Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack confirmed she has scrapped the latest Auburndale design and is going back to the drawing board.

Monat and David Perry, a rider on the line who blogs about it here, tell the story behind the story with the help of hosts Jim Aloisi and Josh Fairchild. Aloisi also places the issue in a broader context, pointing that all too often the T focuses on what’s directly in front of it and fails to develop a broader vision for the future. “We can’t look at solving one issue like accessibility in isolation,” he said.

Aloisi’s vision is that the T needs to stop thinking about commuter rail (the movement of passengers in and out of Boston) and start thinking about regional rail (moving passengers across the system at all times of the day, much like the subway).

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A single word quietly added by the House to pregnant workers’ rights legislation creates a difficult new layer for workers to prove discrimination, say dismayed advocates. (Boston Globe)

Many municipalities have banned recreational marijuana sales within their borders, but Attorney General Maura Healey says those communities cannot ban pot deliveries to residents by vendors located outside the town. (Telegram & Gazette)

The state’s optometrists are mounting an ad campaign to convince House Majority Leader Ron Mariano to give up his opposition to a bill that would let them handle some routine care that can now only be provided by ophthalmologists. (Boston Globe)

A Lowell Sun editorial says Beacon Hill should butt out when it comes to mascots.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Sen. Sal DiDomenico lay out their chamber’s Kids First Initiative. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Mayor Marty Walsh appeals to the public to help police solve a rash of shootings in Boston. (Boston Herald)

Springfield NAACP President Talbert Swan II says a Utah policeman posted a racist meme on his Facebook page. (MassLive)

Panhandler barriers at intersections rejected by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Fired FBI director James Comey, in an extraordinary appearance before the Senate panel investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election, said President Trump pressured him to drop the probe into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and added he was concerned the president “might lie” about their conversations. (New York Times) Notwithstanding a Trump tweet this morning calling the Comey appearance “total and complete vindication,” the Globe’s Matt Viser writes that the testimony makes clear that Trump “grievously wounded his own presidency by abusing his power, misreading both his responsibilities as president and the character of the FBI director he repeatedly pressured,” with the question now left to a special counsel and congressional committees whether he violated federal law or committed an impeachable offense. Comey’s comment, “Lordy, I hope there are  tapes,” trends on Twitter. (Associated Press) The damage from Comey’s testimony extended beyond Trump. (Time) Sen. Lindsey Graham says he thinks Comey’s testimony is an indication Trump will not be charged with obstruction of justice, saying he doubts special counsel Robert Mueller would let his key witness testify before Congress. (U.S. News & World Report)

Burying the lede: A Globe editorial makes its way through the argument before calling in its last paragraph on Congress to begin impeachment hearings. A Herald editorial stops short of that, but sees the hearing as nothing less than a train wreck for Trump.

The House passed legislation undoing much of the Dodd-Frank Act. (Time)

Scott Brown wins confirmation as ambassador to New Zealand. (State House News)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial says US Rep. Richard Neal needs to do a better job listening to local residents in his district.

ELECTIONS

British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her conservative majority in a stunning upset just weeks before start of negotiations with the European Union over Brexit. (New York Times)

Jon Ossoff, the Democrat candidate in Georgia trying to seize a reliably Republican congressional seat in a special election, has raised $23 million for his campaign, making it the most expensive House race in history. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The owner of a medical marijuana facility in Attleboro who wants to open a recreational pot shop and growing facility stands by claims that the town will make $1 million during his first three years of operation. (Sun Chronicle)

GuideStar, the online charity watchdog, has begun adding warning flags to profiles of at least 46 nonprofits identifying them as hate groups. (CBS News)

EDUCATION

The state-appointed receiver of the Southbridge schools takes a paid and unexplained leave of absence, prompting the head of the teachers union to complain that state education officials are making the situation worse, not better. (Telegram & Gazette)

The high-performing Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School in Haverhill is seeking an extension of its charter, but the seemingly routine process has mushroomed into a battle reminiscent of last fall’s fight over charter school expansion. (CommonWealth)

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter announced the city is setting aside $100,000 for outside counsel in anticipation of joining other low-income communities in an education equity suit against the state. (The Enterprise)

A number of states around the country are considering expanding the mandatory school age, from dropping the start of school to age 6 to raising the dropout age to as high as 18. (Associated Press)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Two Cape Cod men have died from the tick-borne Powassan virus, according to Barnstable County health officials. Currently, there is no treatment for the disease unlike other tick bite infections. (Cape Cod Times)

The state names 18 provider and insurer groups that will form “accountable care organizations” as part of a big transformation of the state’s Medicaid program away from its traditional fee-for-service structure. (Boston Globe) Health policy expert John McDonough and William Seligman teed up the big reform push in the spring issue of CommonWealth.

CASINOS/GAMBLING

Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, sends a letter to Beacon Hill telling lawmakers he believes thoroughbred racing can be resurrected if they approve legislation filed by the commission. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Legal experts say Rachelle Bond’s testimony may not be enough to convict her former boyfriend Michael McCarthy of murdering 2-year-old Bella Bond. (Boston Globe)

Maureen McInerney and Benjamin Forman of MassINC do some fact-checking on what the state’s district attorneys were saying at this week’s hearing on mandatory minimum sentencing. (CommonWealth)

If goading someone to commit suicide, as Michelle Carter is charged with, isn’t illegal, it should be, writes Kevin Cullen. (Boston Globe)

The Supreme Judicial Court throws out a defamation case against former governor Deval Patrick centered on comments he made about the former head of the state Sex Offender Registry Board. (Boston Globe)

Former Worcester cop Michael Motyka is found guilty of kicking a shackled prisoner. (MassLive)

New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill spurred by the 2012 murder of a Westborough, Massachusetts, woman that protects the unrelated sexual activity of a victim from being used in court. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

The Guardian US raises more than $50,000 through crowdfunding for an investigation of the sale of public lands.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    If Brockton pursues an education equity suit against the state then it won’t be the first time legal action was taken over how public education is funded in Massachusetts. Back in 1978 a complaint was brought on behalf of students in certain property-poor communities who alleged that the school finance system violated the education clause of the Massachusetts Constitution. The case took FIFTEEN YEARS to work its way through the court system…with one entire generation of Massachusetts school children attending underfunded public schools…then the court finally AGREED in 1993 and the state legislature finally acted. The 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act set education standards and established the Foundation Budget but it took seven years for the state to double its financial commitment to local public school districts from 1993 to 2000. In 2010 the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education released a report, “School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept How is the Foundation Budget Working?” finding “Over the 17 years since the Education Reform Act passed, there has been virtually no equalization in spending or state aid between rich districts and poor.” In 2015, the “Foundation Budget Review Commission Final Report” was released finding a massive shortfall in state aid to public education in areas including English language learning, low income, and special education students as well as health insurance costs. Why does it take a court case to get the state legislature to do its job…to meet the state’s financial obligation to local public schools?