Last-term alderman Steve Linsky and former board president and all-round Newton fixture Brooke Lipsett wrote a fiesty TAB op-ed column about the MBTA crisis, bringing a healthy sense of outrage and urgency. They are right. Cutting services and raising fares is completely at odds with the MBTA’s core mission and will trigger the MBTA’s inevitable decline, at a time when we need more and better transit options.

And, they are correct when they say that the MBTA has framed the challenges in the narrowest, least T-friendly way. The problems of the MBTA ought to be considered in the context of the entire transportation system and its goals. We need a robust T for economic and environmental sustainability. We need to get people out of their cars and into alternatives.

A few misses:

  • They neglect the social justice dimension of mass transit, which was so trenchantly on display at the public meeting at City Hall. The poor, the elderly, the less-abled depend on transit to fulfill their most basic needs.
  • They mention the gas tax, but don’t specifically identify it as a potential — and obvious — solution for the T’s financial woes. A significantly higher gas tax is an obvious and appropriate source of T funding.
  • They don’t mention land use. In Newton, in 2012, the T’s financial woes are going to drive a bad land-use decision, both from the city’s and from a regional perspective.

Here’s how Steve and Brooke wrap it up:

At this defining moment we cannot be satisfied with the present state of our mass transit nor with the direction in which it is headed. And we cannot deceive ourselves into believing we will be better served by the call for a continuing retreat rather than a call for a bold advance.

Right on the money!

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