Charlie, over at Blue Mass Group, has a great post on public transportation. I was a little late in joining the debate, but I feel strongly enough about the subject that I have to make some comments on my own blog. Charlie's post is about how Tim Cahill, our State Treasurer, is furious about the prospect that the state may be willing to take on some of the T's debt. The fact that the T is struggling, despite raising fares 28%, doesn't matter to Mr. Treasurer. All he sees is the bottom line.
Yet, what Tim Cahill doesn't realize is there's more to this than the bottom line. There are all sorts of costs in life, not all of them are direct. For example, the T may operate in the red, but because of that service thousands of more jobs are created and survive in the Boston area. Because of that "debt," hundreds of businesses are profitable. Because of what some call debt, people are easily able to get from point a to point b when it otherwise would be either hard or impossible. In fact, it's hard to say the T operates in debt when the shit would hit the fan in Boston without it.
There's another form of debt, beyond the addiction Boston businesses have on the T. Emissions from cars and trucks commuting into Boston contribute to Global Warming. Systems like the T are exactly what this country needs to save the Earth, literally. Global Warming is real and great public transportation is a big part of the solution. The costs associated with Global Warming are going to be far greater than any of the T's so-called debt; we're just spending a little money now to save tens of trillions later.
Transportation systems cost a lot of money - and it doesn't make fiscal sense to allow them to continue to work in the red. So changes are going to have to be made. However, businesses and non-profits throughout the state depend on the T as much as the riders do. People in Massachusetts depend on those businesses and non-profits thriving to maintain the quality of everyone's lives, whether they ride the T or not. Ultimately, we all need systems like the T - so it makes sense to invest in them now. Since we all rely on the T, we all have to help pay for it - including Tim Cahill, who should be more than willing to help the state make sure the T is in great fiscal shape.