Statistically Significant


Passenger fares accounted for only 29 percent of operating expenses on the MBTA during 2006, according to new data from the Federal Transit Administration, or well below the national average of 34 percent. The biggest drain was the bus fleet, which brought in enough revenue to cover just 21 percent of operating costs; that was the ninth worst performance among the nation’s 10 largest bus systems (only Seattle was lower).

The “fare recovery ratios” for other parts of the T system were closer to those in other major cities. The T’s commuter rail brought in enough to pay for 47 percent of operating costs, and fares for the three “heavy rail” subway lines (Blue, Orange, Red) paid for 45 percent of costs, with the “light rail” Green Line at 49 percent. That was a lot better than the lightly traveled Los Angeles subway, where fares accounted for 31 percent of operating expenses, but nowhere near first-place New York, where MetroCards covered 72 percent of the cost of getting you from one station to another.

no one knows more about septic tanks

In the department of somewhat dubious bragging rights, the Census Bureau has taken a few hundred product categories and figured out which state benefited the most from each of them. It turns out that “septic tanks and related services” was one of 24 industries that enjoyed its highest sales per capita ($17.73) right here in Massachusetts during 2002.

The biggest three industries in which we rank number one are more in keeping with our white-collar image: “wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers,” portfolio management, and the manufacturing of navigational instruments. Each generated at least $8 billion in total sales, or more than $1,300 per person. But Massachusetts was also tops in “specialty hospitals,” cutlery manufacturing, automotive glass replacement (not really an export business, so apparently we have a lot of broken windshields here), coin-operated laundries, and “diet and weight reducing centers.”

Elsewhere in New England, the biggest industries in which each state finished first were: “petroleum bulk stations and terminals” in Connecticut, paper manufacturing in Maine, retail trade in mall-heavy New Hampshire, “miscellaneous manufacturing” in Rhode Island (always so secretive, that state), and computer manufacturing in Vermont.

two for one on beacon hill

There were 569 registered lobbyists on Beacon Hill as of 2006, according to a new report from the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, or 2.8 for every member of the state Legislature. That actually means less arm-twisting than in most capitals: The CPI estimated an average of five lobbyists for every state legislator in the nation. New York led the pack by this measure, with 5,117 lobbyists making their pitches to 212 lawmakers, making for a ratio of 24-1. Florida and Illinois, both with ratios of 12-1, were tied for a distant second.

State lawmakers in North Dakota came the closest to outnumbering lobbyists (but still failed, 154 to 141). Among larger states, Pennsylvania is the most lobbyist-free, with 355 of them spread across a legislature of 253 members.

mit tries harder

Charitable contributions to colleges and universities increased by 6.3 percent in 2007, according to the New York–based Council for Aid to Education, but the bump up was mostly due to grants from family foundations. Gifts from alumni were down by 1.5 percent, perhaps a sign of shaky economic times, but still accounted for 28 percent of all contributions.

California’s Stanford University raised the most last year ($832 million, down 9 percent), while Harvard University remained in second place ($614 million, or up 3 percent). But MIT surged from 21st to 11th place. It raised $329 million, for an increase of 40 percent.

a hefty library fine for bridgewater

“As municipal budgets get tighter, many cities and towns are looking for savings in their library departments. After all, why keep the lights on in the stacks when there’s Wikipedia? But in February, the town of Bridgewater found out that there’s a price for shortchanging libraries. After voters there turned down a Proposition 2 1/2 override, town officials slashed the annual library budget from $844,000 to $484,000, according to the Brockton Enterprise. This move may have helped municipal finances, but the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners found it a most displeasing plot twist. It stripped the Bridgewater Public Library of its certification, meaning that cardholders can no longer borrow books from other libraries in the region.

The Enterprise reported that 14 communities recently appealed to the library board to keep their certification even though they had cut library hours below the minimum set by the state. Only Bridgewater was denied a second chance. Because of its size, Bridgewater was required to keep its libraries open 63 hours a week, but after the budget cuts, the town kept them open a mere 15 hours a week. So the town saved a few hundred thousand dollars and became an example for the rest of the state.

Or will it be a trendsetter?

no land of enchantment for businesswomen

Massachusetts is often knocked for its low number of women in elected office, but we’re not exactly ahead of the curve in the entrepreneurial sector either. The Census Bureau recently calculated that 29 percent (there’s that leap year number again!) of businesses in the Bay State were owned by women in 2002. That’s about the same as the national average, but we ranked 49th, just ahead of New York, in the percentage of businesses “equally owned” by men and women: 8 percent vs. 12 percent nationally. Businesses with both male and female owners—presumably including a lot of literal mom-and-pop stores — were most prevalent in Idaho, with 21 percent of all firms.

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That left Massachusetts as one of only eight states where men, and only men, still owned more than 60 percent of all businesses. The others were Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. (So much for the idea that the Northeast is more enlightened than the Deep South.)

According to the data, women without male co-owners were in charge of more than 30 percent of all businesses in just three states (Hawaii, Maryland, and New Mexico), plus the District of Columbia. New Mexico was the only state where it was even theoretically possible that less than half of all businesses were owned solely by men; a shade under 50 percent were classified as “male-owned,” but the numbers for each state didn’t add up to 100 percent because a small number of businesses are simply “not classifiable by gender.”