Monday, August 18, 2008

Missed Letter to the Editor

Sometimes I don't get a chance to read newspapers delivered to me off-line right away. Such is the case with this past Saturday's The Boston Globe.

Mark Slater of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association wrote a pertinent letter to The Globe's editorial staff titled "Reckless expansion distorts T deficit." Mark - we could not say it better ourselves.

Here is the letter in its entirety. Well said!
IN AN AUG. 7 editorial ("T for troubled"), the Globe lamented that the MBTA's service failings can be attributed to "$8.1 billion debt that saps 27 percent of operating costs just to pay the interest. The debt is unfair and severely distorts the T's balance sheet. The state should find a way to ease the burden."

The Globe ignores common sense by blindly asserting that the MBTA general manager has limited ability to control its finances, as "fares are the only significant part of the T's budget over which Grabauskas has control."

Quite to the contrary, the MBTA has a great deal of control over its finances and its debt levels. The MBTA's fixation on debt-funded expansion - even when a lack of projected ridership revenue fails to support the increase in debt - will cause a continuing degradation in service levels and a need for ongoing taxpayer bailouts.

A leading example of this fiscal folly is the widely reviled Silver Line Phase III, a $1.5 billion to $2 billion bus tunnel touted as providing Roxbury residents with a "one-stop ride" to Logan airport. This project will result in an increase of the MBTA's debt by $600 million to $800 million, despite adding an insignificant number of new riders to the system and despite the fact there is no demand from Roxbury residents for this route.

As it has in many such situations, the MBTA has studiously ignored far less expensive alternative solutions which would avoid the consequent debt increase.

Until the MBTA fixes its thoroughly broken system for project planning, it will stay in a cycle of constantly increasing debt to fund its mismanaged expansion. The bailout of the MBTA without needed planning reforms will simply allow the problem to grow unchecked.

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