It all started with a spit-take over coffee and the Globe one morning in February.
The newly elected governor of Massachusetts, faced with a massive weather-driven transit crisis, repeated a claim that I’d heard made several times before but had let pass by.
“[N]o mass transit system in the United States has grown faster than [the MBTA] has over the course of the past 15 years in a marketplace where the population basically hasn’t changed very much at all,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker during an interview on WGBH, as reported in the Globe.
Knowing a little bit about the recent rapid growth of transit systems in L.A., Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, D.C., Salt Lake City and other urban areas, I was skeptical. That skepticism led to the first of a series of blog posts over the course of the last year challenging sloppy thinking, biased analysis, and the use of out-of-context “facts” in the debate over the T … as well as a few posts that hopefully shed at least a bit of light on possible solutions.
Finding solutions to the T’s problems is going to require the best ideas from everyone – including people of all ideological persuasions. But, in public policy, as in much of life, garbage in tends to lead to garbage out. Until we use data to understand the causes of the problems with the T, rather than engage in political spin, and until we understand the rapidly changing context in which the T exists – specifically, greater Boston’s rapid, urban-focused, transit-dependent economic growth – we are unlikely to be able to fix it. In fact, we stand a very good chance of making it worse.
Here then is a year-end compilation of our blogging on all things MBTA during 2015. Happy holidays, and let’s all hope Santa brings Massachusetts a better and better-informed debate about the MBTA in 2016.
Keep the Change: Why We Still Need to Cap MBTA Fare Hikes (with Kristina Egan)