IT TOOK THE LORD six days to create the earth, and on the seventh he rested. Following that lead, the minor demi-gods charged with operating the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority last month announced that they too would take Sunday off.
That decision is preposterous, so preposterous it's hard to imagine. As Cambridge city manager James L. Sullivan said, "Who ever heard of a six-day transit system?" But, beginning February 1, it may well be reality. The directors of the fiscally strapped T say the suspension of Sunday service is needed to save money, and will have little effect on commuters or merchants.
Certainly, though, thousands of employees will have to find alternate ways to work. As for the merchants, there is more to life than buying socks. Boston residents use the T on Sundays to get to church, to visit museums or basketball games, to see friends. An end to Sunday service is directed at them, the poorest people in the metropolitan area, and not at the suburbanites who retreat to their station wagons for the weekend anyway.
More than likely, the cuts in Sunday service will be restored; indeed, some politicians contend that the whole plan is merely a show to divert attention from other painful cutbacks in service. Some, already announced but largely ignored in the furor over Sunday service, include station closings, reduced bus service, and commuter rail cutbacks. While these cuts are not as drastic as the Sunday stoppage, they must not be allowed either. In a country as starved for energy as the United States, mass transit represents the best chance of cutting automobile use.
The T board of directors does have one valid point-they do not have enough money to run the system. New funds must be found, and not from the current source, the overburdened local property tax. Instead, the money should come from a payroll tax on employers and merchants, the people who benefit the most from the MBTA and pay the least for its maintenance. The T is not a luxury on Sunday or any other day, its service must be maintained and expanded.