Editorial: MBTA upgrades are long overdue

In the midst of Wednesday’s morning commute, on the coldest morning of the year thus far, the Green Line stopped running. A cable fire in the tunnel between the Copley and Arlington stations disabled service through the heart of downtown – between Kenmore Square and Government Center – as well as service on Huntington Avenue’s E-Line. Within the same time period, three Red Line trains died on the tracks, delaying service for countless more.This is a common refrain for MBTA commuters. Not even three weeks ago on Jan. 4, the Red Line and nearly 25 percent of commuter rail trains suffered delays during the morning commute when temperatures dropped to seven degrees. This phenomenon is nothing new. Two years ago today, 63 percent of commuter trains were delayed while temperatures dipped below zero.

There are trains that can traverse Siberia but the MBTA can’t figure how to get trains across Boston during a seasonably cold morning.

This frequent stranding of passengers on the city’s coldest mornings is just one of the many problems that give riders a headache (or in this case brain freeze). The system and the trains that run on it are outdated. The newest cars on the Orange Line will be turning 32 this year. These cars have a 25-year life expectancy – with maintenance they did not receive. The MBTA is antiquated and needs a massive overhaul. Luckily, this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Earlier this month Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a massive plan to update the Commonwealth’s infrastructure – not just the T but roads and bridges too. To appease residents of western Massachusetts, who often loathe funding public transportation for residents of the Boston area, part of the plan includes bringing rail service to Springfield and beyond. Coupled with this plan is a massive education initiative.

Apart from providing much needed maintenance and updates to the MBTA, which would transform the system into the type that is needed to support a city with Boston’s economic potential. The plan would extend weekend service until 2 a.m. The T’s early curfew is a common complaint among students and young professionals, many of whom stay out at least until 2 a.m. on weekends, which is last call in Massachusetts.

The plan would be funded by raising the gas and income taxes, while subsequently lowering the sales tax. This is a bold move politically since raising any taxes – especially the gas tax – is unpopular. Furthermore, part of the plan may include an unspecified fare hike on the T. Last July fares went up in the face of much resistance, although the hike didn’t seem to end up hurting service. Regardless, another fare hike so soon will likely anger many T riders.

Despite the potential setbacks, the current system on the MBTA is unsustainable and a functioning public transportation system is a key component to a successful city. The Green Line first opened in 1897, and it seems it has hardly been updated since. Boston is a modern city and thus deserves a modern transit system.

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