Readers - you can access the webcast of the radio show w/Dan Grabauskas on WBUR from Friday by going to the following URL and choose the "Is the T on Track" link.
Most of the show focused on buses and the T. Only about 4 minutes actually related to the commuter rail and the issues that were raised were relatively dismissed by Dan Grabauskas. When he did have to account for the poor performance in 2007, he blamed the work stoppage by the conductors/engineers. Nice way to pass the buck yet again!
Here are my observations from the webcast:
- When a question was posed by a caller in relation to what could be done about bus overcrowding, Dan Grabauskas said that "well, some routes are more popular than others." Nice response Dan, so basically what you're saying is too bad if you take the #1 or the #86, it's popular therefore you have to deal with the crowds! In addition, Dan Grabauskas mentioned that the well documented financial constraints of the MBTA will make it difficult to add additional resources to address overcrowding issues.
- A question from another caller related to being able to use their collegiate ID as their T pass. Dan Grabauskas actually seemed amenable to this idea, especially since the chip technology that drives the Charlie Card can be used in other technology. This would actually be great in commuter rail parking lots, your monthly pass would not only serve as your fare, but also as your parking lot fee. I hope this initiative gets off of the ground sooner or later.
- Fares only account for 1/3 of the T revenue. The majority of their revenue comes from the % allocation from the Massachusetts state sales tax. Poor sales tax revenue growth has contributed to the debt load of the MBTA. So, even though fares are only a small portion of revenues, expect more fare increases over the next few years ... seemingly to deal with higher fuel costs and maintenance.
- MassPIRG reported that there would need to be 40% increase in fares over the next 5 years to even begin to address the issues the MBTA faces. If that were the case, my monthly pass would go from $250 to $350. For crappy service! Hmmm ... I don't think so.
- 27 cents of every dollar goes to provide debt relief to the MBTA. That is outrageous.
- WBUR sent a rider on the Worcester/Framingham line to report back for the show. Although the train ran on time, the rider noted cold/dark cars and lack of fare collection from the conductors. In typical MBTA response, Dan Grabuauskas said that the commuter rail really falls under the umbrella of the MBCR, so they're responsible for ensuring maintenance and fare collection.
- WBUR asked Dan Grabuaskas to address 2007 worst performance on the commuter rail (across all lines), which incidentally was the worst performance in the history of the commuter rail. Dan Grabauskas replied that there was a pushback from the unions which resulted in a purposeful slowdown/working delays.
I agree that the work slowdown happened, but I do not think you can explain the poor on time performance across the entire system on this reason alone. It just goes to show that they're not really interested in solving problems, just blaming someone else for what happened.
- In relation to the concerns of commuter rail riders, Dan Grabauskas said he though it was "not quite as severe problems as people make them out to be." Oh please. Ride the Worcester/Framingham, Franklin or Middleborough lines. Those are the worst performing lines on the commuter rail. I know for a fact that the Franklin line is consistently 20 minutes late EVERY DAY due to a bridge problem whereby the train has to sit and wait in order to cross, adding to their delays.
It's an attitude like that which will mean the problems that we commuters encounter will never get addressed. I am so irritated that Dan Grabauskas was so flippant about legitimate concerns that commuters are posting.
If anyone listens to the show, let me know your thoughts and comments.