Believe in the T

Economic changes must be made to help save Boston public transportation

For Boston-area residents, the subway system is more than just a convenient tool for travel. It is a staple of an urban lifestyle that also has a low impact on the environment. Massachusetts historically led the way for the United States in terms of going green, as exemplified by the recent passing of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

However, all of the positive legislation and momentum will be pushed backward if several proposed changes to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority take place. Last week, officials of the MBTA released budgeting information that included major cuts to its subway services, including ending weekday commuter rail service after 7 p.m., removing customer service personnel from all stations, and cutting enough overall service from its bus lines and rail systems to generate a loss of over 40 million riders annually.

These massive cutbacks hurt students, commuters, and tourists due to spotty availability but will not decrease the number of people that need to get around the Boston area. Without the reliable system most are used to, increased use of cars will lead to further congestion, accidents, and pollution.

Boston has always been one of the pioneers of public transportation, including being the first American city to implement an underground subway system, and, at a time when easing the burden we put on the environment is a major priority, it is an inopportune moment to cut back on service. Many major cities today still lack robust public transportation, and to benefit its citizens and lower energy usage we need to increase, rather than curtail, mass-transit programs. It is understandable that in these tough economic times money has to come from somewhere, but alternative sources do exist. A legislative proposal that is still pending approval by the Massachusetts State Legislature calls for increasing the tax on gasoline sold in the state, a measure that could eliminate the MBTA’s budget deficit. Beyond solving the fiscal problems of the commonwealth, the proposed gas tax also promises to keep more cars off the road.

Massachusetts may be running out of options to solve its budget crisis, but pulling back on the T is no place to turn.