From afar, it appears that Boston’s MBTA is not handling the incessant snow very well (boldface mine):
Details will be sorted out over time, but initial reports suggest more than a third of Red Line and Orange Line trains disabled; iced-over stretches of third rails; broken down buses; and a variety of switch, signal, cable, substation, and HVAC problems. MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott has already indicated that it will take several days for service to return to normal.
Well, duh. As one Twitter user noted, about a third of Red Line trains in the fleet during the 2015 blizzard had also been through the 1978 blizzard. The “useful life” of those trains, as officially defined, expired 20 years ago. Every Orange Line train in the fleet is past its useful life date. Hundreds of buses have reached or are about to reach their useful life dates.
The vehicles are only the most obvious, and well-documented, problems. The decades-old mechanical infrastructure is so poorly looked after, officials reviewing a 2009 fire essentially conceded that they weren’t even aware of a wiring problem requiring a $200 million system-wide repair.
You can cast a lot of blame in a lot of directions for the sad state of affairs, but the big culprit is pretty clear: state legislators, particularly those from outside Boston, who have spent the past 20 years whistling past the disaster.
They have known, for many, many years, that the state needs to spend a bunch of money on maintenance and upgrading of the MBTA. They don’t care.
This is a failure of our political system:
Some help is on the way, thanks to an $800 million funding bill and a $13 billion bond bill passed in the 2013-’14 legislative session. But that was hacked down from Governor Deval Patrick pushing for a huge transportation infrastructure investment. The legislature hacked it down (eventually passing), in no small part because they were pissy about the way Patrick unveiled the proposal without briefing them.
More importantly, lawmakers outside the city remain stubbornly opposed to spending that they see as money vacuumed from their constituents toward Boston. Patrick, attempting to play to that sentiment, overloaded his proposal with initiatives all over the state. And still I had more than one lawmaker tell me directly that they were in opposition until their own district’s project got added to the menu.
Now we have a cost-cutting new Governor, Charlie Baker, who is no more likely to invest in MBTA upkeep now than he was with the Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci administrations. At least this week’s fiasco might prevent him from trying to stop the transportation bonds, as he is doing with the one for convention center expansion.
The state has never invested enough in the T, and now Massachusetts is paying the price. To be blunt, Western Massachusetts is not the tax-revenue generating machine in the state. If the Boston area becomes less desirable to live and work in, the state will suffer (the notion that the outlying areas ‘subsidize’ the greater Boston area is ludicrous).
We are governed by fools and idiots.