Trains and Taxes
When Governor Patrick gave his state of the Commonwealth address earlier this month, there was a lot of grumbling because he called for higher taxes to pay for, among other things, improvement to our transportation infrastructure. Last week, one on of those single-digit cold days I had to ride the train into Boston. My coach was toasty warm when I came on board and the train deposited me at North Station right on time. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. Just look at the following commuter rail “alerts” that were sent out regarding the Lowell line just last Thursday and Friday:
Lowell 351 06:25 AM cancelled due to mechanical failure 1/24/2013
Lowell 352 06:55 AM IB cancelled due to mechanical failure 1/24/2013
Lowell 355 07:55 AM OB cancelled due to weather related problem. 1/24/2013
Lowell 356 08:30 AM IB cancelled due to weather related problem. 1/24/2013
Lowell 335 05:50 PM OB cancelled due to mechanical failure 1/24/2013
Lowell 343 09:40 PM OB experiencing 15-20 min delays due to mechanical failure 1/24/2013
Lowell 352 06:55 AM IB cancelled due to mechanical failure 1/25/2013
Lowell 315 10:10 AM OB experiencing 10-15 min delays due to track problem 1/25/2013
Lowell 316 10:15 AM IB experiencing 10-15 min delays due to track problem 1/25/2013
The current system may be sufficient if you want trains that only run reliably when the temperature is above 10 degrees, but it’s on those dangerously cold days that we need public transportation more than ever. To me, what we have now is inadequate and needs to be fixed. Maybe there are savings that can be found but the MBTA, like all state agencies, has been squeezed pretty good budget-wise since the bottom fell out of the economy five years ago. Maybe it’s time to get beyond our knee-jerk response against any new taxes and take a realistic view of (1) what services we want government to provide; and (2) what those services reasonably cost.
2 Responses to Trains and Taxes
It would be interesting to go back and see if these type of failures occured in the distant past, or whether they are a new problem. That could raise the question that track maintenance doesn’t adequately consider the environment that the tracks and equipment need to operate in reliably.
Same could be true for the 787 batteries, which likely undergo extreme temperature cycling when inactive, and then fail when they are called upon to do some work.
As a frequent user of commuter rail over the past few years, trains being cancelled in severe cold is not a new thing. It happened quite often last year.