Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (a Republican who, with California’s Jerry Brown, a Democrat, may be the most able governor in America) has wisely dropped a proposal to end all weekend MBTA commuter rail service to reduce the agency’s red ink, though apparently there might still be weekend cutbacks on some lines.
The original proposal would have made the MBTA the only commuter rail service in America to shut down on weekends! With work schedules becoming more fluid and business and building booming in Boston, such a shutdown would have been a false economy.
Of course, labor contracts and some other things need to be changed at the deficit-ridden agency but, still, it produces far more wealth for Greater Boston than it costs. It does this by easing road congestion, making business schedules more reliable, reducing the disruption from bad weather, providing a service that lets people work (and sleep!) while they commute and all in all improving the quality of life in Greater Boston (and to some extent in Rhode Island, too.) And, if you tally up all the costs, it’s always cheaper to take the train than to drive a car you own. The MBTA is a major reason that Greater Boston is prosperous.
What the MBTA needs to do is to heavily promote its weekend service to raise ridership. Regularity and reliability of service are essential for successful promotion.