The question is: how do we get the MBTA's expenses under control? Answer:So, if we paid down half the debt that we forced on the T because of the Big Dig, the MBTA would suddenly not only not be in trouble, but could even expand service. Imagine a subway that didn't shut down at midnight on a Saturday! Well, citizens of Massachusetts, that's how to do it.
Pay down the debt. The T is carrying huge debt loads, and it's not really because of MBTA managers mismanaging. The switch to forward funding meant that the lege made capital decisions for the T and then left them holding the bag. The Big Dig made commitments for the T in order to get better infrastructure for autos, and then left the T holding the bag. MBTA FY 2009 debt services total $368 million, $246 of which is interest payments.
That's right, the total deficit is about $100 million less than the T's interest payments, much of which is paid on loans that MBTA management didn't want to take on, but the legislature forced on them.
$150-200 million is a lot of money, but perhaps only .1-2% of all of our state's income taxes. If the state legislature had the courage to raise that amount to be applied directly to the MBTA's debt service, I think the people of this state would be more than willing to pay it to protect the T. We could make sure that some of that money goes toward solving some debt issues with other public transportation systems in other parts of the state, too, just to be fair. This seems like a no brainer.