Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shared Sacrifice Needed to Keep Transit Solvent

Throughout the country, transit agencies are struggling with deficits brought on by rising fuel costs and lower government subsidies on account of reduced tax revenues. However, in Boston the culprit may be a generous arbitration award to some employees of the MBTA.

According to the Boston Herald, the MBTA payroll rose by 14 percent last year on account of back pay awarded to members of the carmen's union and overtime. 441 employees made over $100,000 last year largely due to overtime. The agency reported a $160 million deficit, slightly more than it planned to spend on a now-canceled purchase of 28 locomotives for its commuter rail lines.

The failure to control payroll expenses isn't sitting well with some area politicians. “A 14 percent hike is ridiculous,” said state Sen. Mark C. Montigny (D-New Bedford). “The first thing the T needs to do before it thinks about increasing fares or taxes is to clean up its own mess.”

Today President Obama announced that executives of companies receiving federal bailout money would have their compensation capped at $500,000 a year. Perhaps a similar cap is needed for transit workers, as well.

In these times, all need to make sacrifices. The burden of maintaining transit services shouldn't be borne solely by taxpayers who might not use the service nor commuters who depend on it. Labor is a stakeholder, too. It deserves to be compensated fairly, but should be willing to give back when times get tough.

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