Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dear MBTA,

You might like to know that the electric heat in the Davis Square Station men's room is still on from last winter. I know that winter ended just three weeks ago, but considering the 8 billion dollars in debt you face, you might like to save some electricity. We appreciate having a safe and legal place to pee when we get off the last train of the night, but this situation reeks of waste. In fact, it reeks like an underground piss sauna on a summer night. Please turn the heat off.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Medford Fire Detail

Police details at construction sites are a sore topic in Massachusetts politics. (For those of you just joining us, "details" are a required, privately paid police presence at all road construction and utility sites. Almost no other states require these, and the cost is ultimately borne by the taxpayer/consumer.)

Even more arcane, outdated, useless, and wasteful is the fire detail, which is required in the Boston area at a variety of events (link to Cambridge's regulations).

Across the city line in Medford, Tufts University recently bought the Sacred Heart Church and Rectory from the Archdiocese of Boston, helping the church pay off its dozens of abuse victims and fanning the anti-intellectual, anti-"expansionism" fears of blue collar Medford.*

Apparently Tufts is making the church into some type of convention center. Its rectory was just torn down, which surprised me, and I passed by the demolition zone at about 6:30pm. Pacing around the rubble was a Medford fireman talking on his cell phone. A beat up old Medford Fire Crown Vic was parked across from the demolition equipment.

I suspected that this might be one of those strange fire details. So I returned on foot around 10:30pm to see if the firefighter was still guarding the ruins of the rectory, watching the jagged chunks of brick and plaster for a wisp of telltale smoke. The cruiser was still there and the scene dark. As I grew closer, I spied a weak white light coming from within the vehicle. The firefighter was reclining under the reading lamp with the driver's door slightly ajar, relaxing with a newspaper.

So the fire detail does exist, and in Medford, firefighters receive overtime pay to guard piles of rubble 24/7. Both satisfied and disappointed, I walked to Davis to take advantage of the weather. There I found that new pavement markings were being applied in the square. And the striping crews were being protected by cops and cruisers from Everett and Somerville.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Globe Reports on Cost of State Police Cruiser Details; Many Wheels Continue to Get Greased

We all know how much I like to point out the horrendous contempt for taxpayers Massachusetts displays, particularly by forcing us to pay cops $40 an hour to stand outside of open manholes and read the Herald at road work sites.

Last month, the Phoenix cited a Suffolk University/Beacon Hill Institute paper that reported that municipal police departments took in $67 million in detail pay.

Curiously, figures were not available for the State Police. Today, the Globe devotes an entire article to the outrageous salary inflation details provide State Troopers, without ever mentioning how much money the State Police removes from our pockets.

What the Globe does admit, however, is that Mass is the only state in the nation to require State Police details. One interviewee calls them "a political sacred cow."

The Globe article quotes another Beacon Hill Institute paper estimating that state and municipal forces took in $93.3 million dollars in detail pay in 2003.

Before writing my next two Mass-questioning posts, my favorite lines of the Globe article:

A 2004 study by Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute, examined data from details at construction sites in 103 cities and towns and found that the state has the worst accident rate in the country measured by property damage and the second worst measured by bodily injury.

But, the study excluded State Police details, because the agency said it could not produce necessary records for less than $5,800

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A great read on the MBTA Greenbush Project.

Our beloved MBTA has spent over $500m on a rail line out to some tony suburbs. The line will generate less than 2000 (some say 8,000...) riders a day, and feed them into crumbling downtown transit infrastructure.

Big Dig megacontractor Jay Cashman built the line together with the British firm Balfour Beatty. Operation of the line will be the duty of the "MBTA Annex," or MBCR, a corporation of former/retired MBTA bigwigs and their French and Canadian partners in collusion. Their private company has a $1.07b (billion), five-year contract to run the state commuter rail for the state.

BadTransit has a great article about what may have gone wrong here, and who's going to pay for it.

ADDENDUM: Note that the state was required to build this line to offset pollution from expanding I-93 (the big dig). But other required projects--like the extension of the Green Line, a project that would attract and benefit 15-20,000 riders per day--have not even been designed.

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