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Massachusetts facing a transit fiscal cliff

The Patrick administration plans to deliver ideas for ways to help the state’s ailing transportation system by Jan. 7.JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

THE FEDERAL “fiscal cliff” is consuming the news, but Massachusetts faces a transportation finance cliff (“Tax hike on the table for roads and transit,” Page A1, Nov. 17). As the state debates additional revenue for transportation, we should avoid stopgap measures or one-time fixes. We need real solutions that will generate sufficient revenue for the long term.

Despite this year’s steep fare hikes, the MBTA faces a $130 million deficit next year. Transit systems outside Boston have hiked fares and cut bus routes dramatically, even as the public clamors for more service. State roads and bridges face an even bigger crunch, almost one-quarter of a billion dollars. Putting off modernization has made the problems — and the price tag — worse. Decaying infrastructure causes accidents, harms local businesses, and costs all of us time and money. We can pay now, or we can pay much more later — but we will pay.


Solutions put in place in the past are insufficient. The 21 cent gas tax passed in 1991 is now worth less because of inflation. The portion of the sales tax that goes to public transit has never met expectations, leaving the MBTA with a structural deficit. New revenue is clearly needed to improve the prospects of future generations. It’s time to turn transportation away from the cliff.

Marc Draisen
Executive director
Metropolitan Area
Planning Council