THE BLOG
04/14/2009 10:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Has Massachusetts' transit authority lost its mind?

Waiting for the subwayDetailed by The Boston Globe last week, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority seeks to drastically eliminate subway, bus, and rail services; raise faires; and cut 805 jobs in an effort to alleviate $160 million in debt.

The T, as its affectionately abbreviated in the Bay State and around New England, insists its "backup plan" of cuts will not occur if the State steps in with assistance through implementation of a 19-cent gas tax increase. Taxpayers feel the brunt of this magnitude of potential cuts and, according to anonymous comments at the Boston Herald, they are not forgiving.

A sampling:

tarikalicious: Isn't this like a hostage situation? Give us more money state or we'll cut transit service and charge 30% more to ride the MBTA. Who will pay more for less in this economy? Why don't MBTA unions give up the large inceases they just received?

truthingovt: With these potential cutbacks in mind, the T should not be allowed to expand any of its lines until they are completely reorganized.If they cannot manage what they have now, how will they manage it if it is larger. This is a disgrace.

boazrg: Recently I was in Washington DC on business. A subway ride in DC about the length of Boston's Orange Line costs five dollars! New Englanders are like in-laws: They expect the best of everything but they don't want to pay for it!

The comments over at Bostonist are no less incredulous, especially those who question the cutting of commuter rail service after 7 p.m. and on weekends.

Hello? Has the MBTA lost its transportation mind?

Sure, let's all drive into Boston and into other communities, thereby polluting the state with fumes!

Granted, none of this is really news as Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi warned of similar cuts in February, including implementing toll systems beyond the Mass Pike.

I'm irked why service cuts are on the table in the first place. Did nobody at MBTA management read this just-released report (PDF) by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that $160 million can be saved by health reform?

In 2008, the MBTA paid an average of $14,000 in health care costs for each of its 5,600 employees and $18,000 for 2,000 pre-65 retirees. This $15,000 average for all members under the age of 65 is an astounding two-thirds more than the GIC's average cost of $9,000 and almost double the $8,000 per worker national average.

More remarkable than the benefits provided current employees are those received by thousands of MBTA retirees. For the 4,000-plus former employees who retired from the Authority prior to July 2008, the MBTA pays 100 percent of their health insurance premiums.

...and that's the tip of the iceberg of health cuts the MTF suggests. Have a look at that report link, then raise transportation hell by contacting Governor Deval Patrick through Twitter @MassGovernor, or by mail, email, or fax.

Speaking of Twitter, folks are pissed off:

julierae9: what the heck is the mbta thinking!!?? Cutting night and weekend commuter service!?

Cyooner: just cannot believe that the mbta is making all these cuts...

EllaGood: I really hope the MBTA doesn't slash services

aloudonline: Sometimes I hate living in Mass. This often happens around tax time and MBTA "fare hikes + service cuts" announcements. (Will I move? No.)

HMXAlakaiser: Commuter rail bad on weekends? The MBTA has a solution for that!

squeed: Terrified at the MBTA's possible service cuts.

jennynwilliams: MBTA proposed cuts are ridiculous.

On top of these thoughts, Seth Graham points out on his blog that the T is hiring. Can you smell irony?

Photo credit: Pear Biter

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