Will Baker get on the T revenue train?

Chorus of voices grows in call for more urgent action

FOR CHARLIE BAKER, when you’ve lost Bob DeLeo and Marty Walsh, along with leading business voices, those infernal MBTA countdown clocks that can’t give Red Line riders a clue to when the next train is coming are instead flashing a big warning to you that time’s up.

And so it came to pass, after a surreptitious late-night visit to the scene of the latest transit calamity, that the governor stood in a Medford train garage and proclaimed that the troubled agency would get an emergency infusion of $50 million to speed along repair work as well changes to procurement policies to also aid infrastructure improvement efforts.

Baker wasn’t budging from his stand that new tax revenue isn’t needed to fix the system, but the scene nonetheless marked a significant change in posture from the comment he offered immediately following the June 11 Red Line derailment that repair work at the T is moving in the “right direction.”

The same, one could aver, has been true of construction work on Barcelona’s famed Sagrada  Familia.

News that the signal system at JFK/UMass Station destroyed by this month’s derailment, which has Red Line trains lurching along as they’re cleared manually to proceed to the next station, won’t be fully restored until at least Labor Day, has made it impossible to ignore the system’s woes.

In 2013, DeLeo balked at then-Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal for a sweeping $1.9 billion tax package to fund transportation and education needs. Walsh, then in his last months in the House, dutifully went along. Fast forward six years and Walsh shifted over the course of a few days from supporter to opponent of the T’s planned fare hike, while demanding a local seat on the T oversight board. Meanwhile, DeLeo issued a strong statement only hours after Baker’s announcement saying the T is “in crisis” and in need of more than the “one-time revenue solution” the governor put forward.

The speaker said the House will engage in a wide-ranging debate this fall about revenue options to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure.

On Monday, CEOs of businesses in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, the epicenter of the state’s biotech and innovation economy, declared the T to be in a “state of emergency,” and said in a letter to Baker, DeLeo, and Senate President Karen Spilka that it “is time to raise revenue for transportation and end this crisis.” Their call came on the heels of Jim Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, tweeting that the T needs “major & urgent investment” — “#NOW.”

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The caucus calling for more money for the T feels like it’s getting as crowded as subway car full of passengers sardined onto a stalled Red Line train, waiting with the doors still open to be manually cleared to crawl to the next station.

It’s already a tight fit — and the crowd has heard he’s not too familiar with the ways of bedraggled daily straphangers — but they’re all signaling an eagerness to make room for a tall guy from Swampscott to squeeze on board.