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RENÉE LOTH

State’s short-term fix won’t solve MBTA’s ails

Does Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey have the toughest job in state government? Smart and upbeat after nearly a year in the post, Davey still says it’s the best job. But the 39-year-old manager is confronting probably the greatest gap between public expectations and available resources of any service the state provides today. And he represents two warring constituencies — highway drivers and transit commuters — who are blind to their common interests.

This week the Legislature coughed up a short-term fix for the MBTA, appropriating $51 million from car inspection fees and unused snow removal funds courtesy of our freakishly mild winter — obviously not a sustainable source of revenue. But just when Davey might have taken a breath, two new studies presented stark evidence of how critically overburdened the state’s public transit system is right now — never mind how poorly equipped it is to meet the demands of a growing economy. And it wasn’t just crunchy transit advocates who were sounding the alarm, but downtown developers and some of the state’s largest employers. They understand that a creaky, crowded, unreliable public transit system is as big a speed bump to economic growth as the usual bugaboos of burdensome regulations and confiscatory taxes.

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