All Hail: Backwards transportation

As most of you know, the T fares have increased again, this time from $1.25 to $1.70 with a CharlieCard. This is, of course, ridiculous. It’s an abuse of college students all over the city, as well as in Cambridge, an infringement on the necessities of commuters who work in the city and simply an awkward amount of change to have to pay.

The MBTA claims this is the only solution to the budget deficit that has been a problem for the past few years. However, it will drive away thousands more commuters, which is made all the more disturbing by the fact that officials realize this but do not seem to care.

This means there is a more serious issue than a mere budget deficit floating over this city’s conscience: the MBTA board and former governor Mitt Romney were too lazy and apathetic to improve public transportation, opting instead to succumb to the masses of gas guzzling cars on the Masspike, and take in just enough money for public transportation to survive.

The problem gets even more disturbing when discussing driving. Last month there was a proposal by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board to eliminate tolls west of Route 128. While this proposal applies to Route 128 westbound only, there was an additional suggestion to eliminate tolls on 128 eastbound as well. This would cover the length of Massachusetts horizontally. It would also likely increase traffic by thousands of cars, thereby increasing highway accidents and toxic fuel emissions by similarly large amounts in a state with major air pollution problems.

The decision to raise fares for public transportation is inconvenient, but the simultaneous decision to eliminate tolls from a major highway is absurd. It shows the Romney-Healey administration, which backed the toll proposal, did not care about college students and lower-class commuters, opting to appeal to complaints from suburban, middle-class drivers who say tolls have always slowed traffic flow and that the state did not keep its promise to eliminate tolls years ago.

Here is what really needs to be done: make the trains work better. Many people do not like riding the trains because some of them are so inefficient. All four lines connect with the suburbs and key destinations, yet they can be very slow and unreliable. If the MBTA works on constructing better trains that are longer, wider and won’t break down at random stops, and gives more intensive training to the conductors, then more people would want to ride the T and might disregard the cost. But until that happens, the fares should be reduced for the benefit of students and middle class working people.

Similarly, the tolls on the Masspike should be, if anything, increased in the Metro-west area so more people avoid the Pike and air pollution decreases. I can sympathize with drivers from western Massachusetts, some of whom have no choice but to drive long distances on the Pike, and perhaps they can be permitted special highway passes of some sort. But pulling people off the trains and onto the highway is the wrong solution.

There is hope: the Romney-Healey administration is finished – thank god – and governor Deval Patrick is a strong opponent of the MBTA’s decision to increase fares. Northeastern students, I urge you, write to the MBTA board directly and let them know that you do not want to be ripped off. If you think the Masspike fiasco is upsetting, let the government know your concerns. The Massachusetts government is ignoring its obligations to residents, students and the environment and its ignorance must be shut down.

Deval Patrick has decided, after reviewing the state’s financial situation, that he opposes the toll removal plan because it would cost too much and there is already enough money being spent fixing the Big Dig tunnels. Other officials have stated that the toll removal plan is, in fact, illegal under state law. The proposal is still up in the air, but has been put on hold indefinitely. I urge you to act so the right decisions are made.

– Damon Griffins is a sophomore communications studies major.

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