Monday, July 13, 2009

Toll Fraud

[Note: Please read the important update below. The Pike's still in the wrong, but for a slightly different - and not quite as bad - reason. The Herald article was a little bit confusing, so I apologize for getting some of this wrong originally. Went offline today to learn more so I could correct it.]

Why do we allow this authority to exist anymore?
A $100 million state legislative bailout of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was supposed to make possible a reduction in tolls - but there’s been no talk of fulfilling that promise since the cash was approved weeks ago.
And what do we get?
“Since then the Authority has experienced additional fiscal strains,” said Executive Office of Transportation spokesman Colin Durrant. “The costs of the system simply do not permit toll reduction to be a viable option.”
Should anyone be surprised? A great deal of people were sounding the warning bell months ago, declaring this would happen. They knew, even after we raised taxes to give all the requested money to the Pike, the Pike would raise the tolls anyway. These people were calling for the state legislature to enforce the Pike's promise to lower or keep the same toll rate. Sadly, the State did not listen.

Let us not forget: The MBTA did the same exact thing. What is it with these Massachusetts Authorities thinking they can have their cake and eat it too? The Pike told the State House it needed $100 million or it would have to basically double all tolls. The MBTA said it needed $160 million, or it'd have to make extreme cuts to services and hikes to fees. The State House actually raised taxes and provided the necessary funds. Both Authorities raised the fees anyway. Who do these people think they are? In what world do they live in -- because it's clearly not the one the rest of us draw breath from.

The brashness of these assholes is, at this point, legendary. Their lack of honor, dignity or compassion makes them downright alien. Both of these authorities are declaring open warfare on Massachusetts taxpayers. People should park their cars in the Ted Williams tunnel. They should stand in the doorways of the Green Line. It is time to shut down the Pike and MBTA. It is time to say no more. They don't give a shit about you or me. They don't give a shit about the people who use their services. They don't give a shit about the fact that we're all losing jobs, taking paycuts or doubling payments on our healthcare just to get by. They care about protecting their rackets. They care about maintaining the status quo. They need to be fired. The tolls need to be taken down. And we need real, live, fucking accountability in our "authorities" for once.

Important Update: Okay, I'm calming down a little bit, because I went offline to talk with some people today to get the real scoop. The Pike is honoring the existing rate after the state dug up the $100 million for them, but it's not honoring the clause in the bill that said the Pike can no longer use toll money to pay off their Big Dig debt.

On the one hand, that latter clause was a hard-fought addition to the law. On the other hand, 58 cents of every dollar paid at Pike tolls goes to pay off the Big Dig. So, the state's going to have to cough up more money if it's going to get the Pike to actually honor the law. It's still an unaccountable organization -- they could have done something to at least show that they wanted to honor the new law. And nothing's changed about the fact that the MBTA completely lied and showed an utter disregard for its passengers when it claimed the need for $160 million or else, got it and raised prices anyway. That utter disregard shows a need for the public to become much more active in getting these authorities to be accountable -- one way or the other, legislatively or through civil disobedience. These people need to learn that they serve at our pleasure, not the other way around.


Anonymous said...

Let's see what our "trusted" leaders do about this.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan -

Maybe I'm misreading the article here, but I think there are two separate issues going on that you're confusing.

The Pike said they needed $100 million or they would have to double the tolls. They got the $100 million. They have NOT doubled the tolls.The tolls have remained at the same level they were last year.

The Herald article alleges that they would actually LOWER the tolls below the existing level with the $100 million. I never saw where they said they could do that in the current climate, but maybe I missed it somewhere.

I'm no Pike apologist, but the way your article reads to me, seems like you're accusing them of doing something they haven't actually done.

Ryan said...

Yes, Anon, I have to correct the blog.

I've done some research on the subject and they did, indeed, keep the lower rates. However, there was a clause in the bill that said if the state gave the $100 million, they were supposed to lift the $.58 on the dollar that was going toward the Big Dig. They're not doing that.

It's more excusable, but they could have still done something about that clause, at least to show they 'got it.' Additionally, it speaks nothing for the MBTA... which did get the money... and which is raising fees anyway. So I guess they're the only one's who should be completely replaced or subjected to civil disobedience.

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