In the real world, funding is only an issue; politics is the most persistent problem
It must be something in the air. Or the water. Maybe it is our Puritan heritage. Whatever the reason, Bostonians love to criticize, to complain. If there is an upside to the local culture of negativity, it might be that it keeps everyone on their toes.
As targets for criticism go, it is hard to imagine one more inviting than the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, better known as the MBTA, best known as the T. That such a sprawling system is nearly universally recognized by a single letter is a testimony to its ubiquity. It also suggests the central role the T plays in so many lives.
As with other institutions that protect or foster the common good — schools, police departments, fire stations — Boston was an innovator, a pioneer in providing mass transport. The American Public Transportation Association credits Boston with the nation’s first publicly operated ferryboat (1631), first commuter fare on a railroad (1838), first fare-free promotion (1856), first public-transportation commission (1894), first electric underground street railway line (1897), and first publicly financed transportation facility (1897).
While the community can take pride in the past, pride will not help the region navigate the future. We are building on century-old infrastructure and can not lose site of that.
With gasoline prices skyrocketing, and unlikely to go lower, and recognition of the importance of global warming finally penetrating the national consciousness, the MBTA is of more central importance than ever before.
The special report in this edition of the Phoenix is rooted in that assumption, and looks at issues both large and small. In some cases the articles are analytical; in other cases whimsical. But if there is a bottom line to be found in the Phoenix survey, it is this: all things considered, the MBTA is doing a pretty good job. The question is: how can it do better?
: The Editorial Page
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