Keller @ Large: Can Anyone Save Transportation Department?

BOSTON (CBS) – If you think body language can be very revealing, as I do, you would have had a field day watching the video of Governor Patrick yesterday introducing Richard Davey as the state’s new secretary of transportation, succeeding Jeff Mullan.

Both men looked about as comfortable as a T commuter who can’t afford to be late to work again.

And they fidgeted uneasily as the governor mouthed platitudes about their commitment to safety and customer service, goals they support, no doubt, but also promises they know the system really can’t keep.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

After watching this bit of awkward political theater, I went over to South Station to talk with commuters about their level of confidence in state government’s transportation management, which for most people is apparently hovering near zero.

Watch Jon’s WBZ-TV report

This is less a comment on Mullan, a well-respected veteran manager, and Davey, who’s done the best he could as MBTA boss, than it is on the dismaying mismanagement of state politicians going back decades that has us locked into a downward spiral of crumbling tunnel lights and commutes from hell.

Most of you already know the basics of this story.

A decision was made more than 20 years ago to bet our transportation future on the Big Dig, which was going to solve our problems for just a couple of billion dollars.

More than $20 billion later, the bungled project is the source of most of our financial problems.

And make no mistake, money is – as always – the bottom line.

We don’t have enough of it to properly fix our roads and bridges and run our trains.

And we can’t get more of it because of the self-serving political cowardice of a string of pols including the current governor who refused to make a sustained public case for higher T fares and tolls.

So now we’re all used to paying less than other comparable cities for transit, and guess what?

You get what you pay for.

And no, rearranging the deck chairs at the transportation building won’t make much, if any, difference, no matter what the spin is from Beacon Hill.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • Al

    Time to put that toll booth on I93 at the New Hampshire line. $2.00 each way for every car going north and south out of the Live Free or Die state. All these people that commute to Massachusetts from NH need to kick in the cash.

    • tsal

      Absolutely agree – what are we waiting for?

    • SDD

      Kick in the cash? You mean “more cash” as since they work in MA they already have to pay MA income tax despite not living in the state. Right?

      • BostonIrish

        SDD-completely agree. Putting up a toll booth is not the answer. As it is the people working in Mass that live in NH pay income tax, and they get no representation. And those people do spend money during work hours in the communities where they work in Mass. They go to lunch, gas up, sometimes shop. Why then would it be ok to make them pay yet again? To me it’s unnecessary, and I don’t want to pay extra to my state if I travel up there and back.

    • Nab71

      That’s easy to say if you aren’t in one of the communities that would be inundated by cars avoiding the tolls. Even so that would only deal with the roadways. Why is it difficult to understand that T fares have not kept pace with costs. People say they’ll just use their cars. They’d do that for about a week before they began to realize that the cost of the T is a bargain.

  • The Batman

    It’s call an “income” tax for a reason. It is a tax on income, not residence, therefore is should be paid to the state where the income is earned. And if Massachusetts drivers have to pay a toll for the “privilege” of driving in the great state of NH, then NH drivers should have no complaint about doing the same to drive on our roads.

    • BostonIrish

      The state income tax I pay to Mass as one of it’s citizens makes it my right to speak to my local reps regarding spending and services. People in NH that pay Mass income tax don’t get that ability as they’re non-residents. Therefore it is taxing without representation. It’s an understandable but lopsided outcome of paying income tax to a state you don’t reside in.

    • SDD

      @The Batman If it truly is a tax on income, not residence then why does MA charge people income tax for income they earn from out of state?

  • skier7410

    You can’t have it one way folks. To improve service, there must be enough revenue coming in from taxpayers and fares. Don’t want a gas tax increase or higher fares? Then service will stay the same.

    • tsal

      I have an idea. Perhaps if they got rid of some of the waste in government they’d find the money without adding a tax to gas or increasing taxes.

      • skier7410

        A reasonable plan wouldn’t work without cutting waste but it can’t be the only solution. Remember that “waste” is not investment in improving service.

      • tsal

        waste creates $$ which translates into the investment. However, I agree that it is not the only solution. I don’t think there is just one solution.

  • k

    I don’t understand. Is the transportation department in bad shape ? How can that be ?

    Deval Patrick just handed out a lot of raises to the transportation department for their great job and great handling of additional responsibilities

    Can we get this jacka..voted out of office please ?

  • tsal

    Well two ideas have been suggested. I like the toll booths at the borders. It might also help our businesses cope with the outpouring of residents heading north for no sales tax items although I’m sure there are roads that residents in northern MA know to get around the booths. Cutting waste is definitely something that has to be done. I don’t believe there is one solution and for those who don’t like any given, what would you recommend?

  • mikey

    The only public transportation that works the way it should in this state is the governor’s $56K Tahoe. No problems here.

    I call it public transportation because ” we the public” pay for it.

    • mikey

      P.S. The good news here is that the forementioned vehicle is a hybrid. We’re saving tons of money.

      I wish I could afford to fill my gastank.

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