Is the T on Track?

The litany of woes is as long, and as old, as the MBTA itself: An $8 billion debt. Aging trains and buses. Maintenance backlogs. Fare increases. And now, the admission from MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas that the T has been secretly cutting trips from its published schedules.

The hope, Grabauskas says, was that cutting trips would cut costs.

That hasn't happened. The MBTA is still saddled with a debt load among the largest in the nation for a public transit system. Riders say service has been declining for years. And this is one of the few issues where everyone on Beacon Hill seems to be in agreement: the T is in trouble.

But what to do about it?

Get on board as we search for the answer to that question. And another, one of Boston's most famous: "Should we walk, or do we have time to take the T?"


  • Daniel Grabauskas, General Manager of the MBTA
  • Stephanie Pollack, Northeastern University Center for Urban and Regional Policy

In 1948, Charlie reached for a sandwich. Today, on the MBTA's Charlie Cards (click on image at right), he's got a T-pass in his hand. Interesting that the T adopted Charlie, since the song's rousing final verseincludes the line, "Fight the fare increase!"

The tune was political from its birth. Written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, "Charlie on the MTA" was one of 10 campaign songs created for Walter A. O'Brien's failed 1949 Boston mayoral campaign. As one historian notes, the songs "were broadcast from a sound truck that drove around the streets of Boston. This earned O'Brien a $10 fine for disturbing the peace."

Some T-riders might say it's the MBTA that disturbs their own peace... give us your two-cents, or nickel's worth in the comment section below. We promise, no exit fares for riding along with Radio Boston.

Boston Buskers

I will be honest. Some of the musical performers on the T, I love. Some, I can't stand. In the love category: the guy who shows up sometimes at Park Street station with a very blusey steel string guitar; the skinny folk singer at Government Center; the Spanish guitarist I recorded on the Red Line platform at Park Street.

In the despise category: The long-haired guy with the 70s concert t-shirts who plays 80s mohawk rock, complete with a synth track (Whitesnake? Really?); the Chinese violinist at Harvard Square, because, though I appreciate the culture of it, seems as if he's in constant musical combat with the Peruvian pan flutists across the street. Not a good mix.

Who are some of your favorites?

And then, there are the just plain amazing. Including the bucket-drummer fellow we feature as a music break on the show. Our techincal director, Tim Skoog, was allowed to record him only after he bought a $10 CD. But, hey, I guess if you've got a camera, it's different, because we found him on YouTube as well:

Helpful resources:

This program aired on February 29, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.


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