MBTA needs a plan for overhaul and streamlining

Julianna Holland  Journal Staff

January 1967, a college student commuting to school is probably reveling in the excitement of the first super bowl, or perhaps he’s more excited about his new calculator, the first hand-held one ever made. What does he have in common with you? (Not his tuition cost.) You are both probably riding the exact same Red Line train car.

I, like many others, am blessed with the presence of the Red Line every morning. There’s nothing I love more than going “stand by” at every stop along the way or tap dancing with the person behind me when the operator decides to slam on the brakes – and nothing starts my day right like being 20 minutes late for class because my train ride decided to go from 40 minutes to an hour-and-a-half. Regardless of your line, you feel my pain.

Jan. 23 seemed to be the MBTA apocalypse.

On the coldest day in three years, we were all left stranded all over the MBTA map. The Green Line was on fire and half of the Red Line trains decided to take a nap. Our transportation system is truly the wart of Boston.

What’s the surest way to make a tourist never come back here? That’s easy: just wait until they have to be somewhere and tell them to take the train. Pick a line – any line! These tourists will be horrified because they are used to their own transportation services. As a matter of fact, every major city in the world can run a successful subway system except us.

We can start by taking notes from the Paris Métro. Have you seen how clean it is? And oh, here’s a big one! They have a glass gate to prevent customers from falling into the pit of death at rush hour.

Another example closer to home is New York City; their subway system is far more complicated than ours, yet I can catch a train every five minutes or less. I will give the MBTA credit for the new system that tells you how long until the next trains arrive – however, wouldn’t it be so much better if the times were accurate, or if they didn’t ever have to say, “Braintree 20+ mins?”

The pressing question is how can the MBTA make all the improvements they need? They will immediately say, “We need more money.” Yeah, well, so did the Big Dig, and look where that got us. You want more money? Then treat the city of Boston as your investors: present us with a detailed plan of exactly what you plan to do with this money – every last penny of it.

Right now, riders feel as though the MBTA is nothing but a leaking pool of money. If you want anyone to put more investments into this pool, fix the leaks. Get rid of the corruption and keep up with the maintenance, specifically: replace “zombie” train cars that are literally so far past the end of their life it’s almost pathetic. Replace the rails that need to be replaced and above all have a system in place for the inevitable delays.

If the MBTA system proves itself to be competent then more people will want to ride it. More customers mean more revenue, and more revenue means no more excuses. Money has time and time again been granted to the MBTA, yet not much has changed. With a recent increase in the fares, it leads most to wonder what exactly that new revenue is going towards. Most of the money the MBTA system needs can be found by simply allocating costs better. I agree that this is no easy, quick, or inexpensive fix, but it is one that is possible and one that needs to get started.

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