Monday, August 18, 2008

An Open Letter to the MBTA

Dear MBTA,

Did I call it, or what? Today's story about the MIT students makes the MBTA look like a bunch of old fogies who have absolutely no understanding of this most recent generation, anything technical or even how to deal with public relations. As I said in my original blog, there wasn't a worse way possible that the MBTA could have reacted to these students, who were offering their services for free - this pitted Davids (the MIT students) versus the goliaths (the entire MBTA). The rest of the country got their popcorn and watched.

It's the second major time that a large Massachusetts agency has essentially seen an attack of the Mooninites. It's another bad-press piece among a sea of recent bad press, all amounting to the MBTA executives - the same ones getting a 9% raise - looking like a bunch of hacks. Not good, especially for MBTA employee wallets.

Clearly, the MBTA needs to make some major changes. First thing's first: hire someone under the age of 50 to do your public relations (or at least make sure they have a few teenaged kids). Don't hire a hack; hire someone who gets the new media, the internet, blogs and won't make knee-jerk reactions. Secondly, don't sue MIT students, pretty much under any circumstances. It just makes you look bad, especially to the people who actually use the MBTA (among them plenty of MIT students).

Most importantly, there are problems at the MBTA. They need to be fixed. Believe it or not - and this is why all these stories look so bad for the MBTA - these students from MIT were actually trying to help you. You should have at least paid them lip service, but it would have even been better if you took them up on their offer and investigated the problems they brought up. Furthermore, if you're worried about free rides on the MBTA, maybe you all should worry about the thousands of people who are getting free rides every week - because current policies, especially on the Green Line, don't prevent people from just walking on the trains.

The MBTA has bigger problems to worry about than Mooninites - I mean MIT students. It should focus on those problems. It should focus on staying afloat, financially. It should focus on making the best of these high gas prices and the tens of thousands of new commuters they're bringing. It should focus on how service can be expanded. Suing MIT students and sending the FBI after them is the last thing the MBTA should be doing, or focusing on. I hope the MBTA's course can be corrected soon, otherwise all the people who are starting to taking the T now will stop, whether gas prices go back down or not. Sadly, there's not much that's been done at the MBTA that inspires any confidence whatsoever that the MBTA can become a modern state agency that can cope with being in today's world.

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