Massachusetts transportation officials have kicked off a series of public hearings on the future of the state’s transportation system. There was some talk about commuter rail, new hubs and traffic management, but the officials mostly heard complaints that western Massachusetts was paying too much for Boston-area transit systems.
MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey brought a dire fiscal message – huge debt in his budget, deficits for years, a massive debt burden, and likely continued fare hikes for riders on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s buses.
“A place like Springfield is heavily reliant on public transportation,” Davey said. “Two thirds of every rider n the PVTA is either at or below the poverty level. So we have to find a way to adequately fund our transportation system.”
Davey’s avowed understanding of rider needs did not assuage many in the audience of about 70 people, who said western Massachusetts unfairly subsidizes Boston public transportation.
One Ludlow selectman noted that government statistics show that in 2010, while western Massachusetts governments paid for 17 percent of the PVTA’s budget, Boston T-area governments paid only 9 percent of the MBTA’s expenses.
Springfield resident Anushe Diwidgin summed it up like this:
“Transportation in Massachusets sucks. There’s no dedicated funding for the system. They expect riders to pay or taxpayers to pay 100 percent of the cost. My favorite expression? ‘Tax Mercedes, not old ladies.’ There has to be an additional excise tax on drivers.”
Secretary Davey resisted calls for changing the balance of payments between east and west. Instead he said the state should grow the revenue pie… for the entire Commonwealth.