LIKE A WELL-OILED messaging machine, Maura Healey has had a one-word mantra to frame her early days as governor: competitiveness. It’s become her version of the stern advice given in the 1967 movie “The Graduate” to Benjamin Braddock, who was told the watchword for his future was “plastics.”
We regret any inconvenience this may cause, but Healey’s laser-focus on the state’s economic vitality is not likely to get traction until she finds a way out of the slow-zone quicksand that seems to be swallowing up the entire MBTA system.
Prior to the blockbuster news late last night of a system-wide speed restriction limiting trains to 10 to 25 mph across the T’s entire four subway lines, the Boston Herald reported yesterday that the T added more “slow zones” in February to the sluggish system that was already bogging riders down in interminable commutes.
It’s beginning to make the T’s “snowmageddon” collapse during Charlie Baker’s early days in office look like a walk in the park.
How does it all translate for one beleaguered Red Line rider (me)?
In the before-times, my ride from Ashmont to Park Street (which includes the Red Line stretch that prompted yesterday’s sudden system-wide concerns) took 20 minutes from the time the doors closed in Dorchester until they opened downtown. It could vary by a minute or so, but the actual travel time without counting the wait at the station was remarkably consistent over many years.
Yesterday, my ride into town clocked in at 26 minutes. I didn’t know how good I had it. The return home: 34 minutes.
That’s 20 minutes more on what used to be a 40-minute round-trip, or a 50 percent increase in commuting time. Over a five-day week – if anyone were contemplating such a work schedule in the new hybrid reality of many workplaces – that would be an extra 100 minutes. Over a 48-week year, it comes out to 80 extra hours, or two full work weeks, spent riding the rails.
My return home seems to have been caught in the temporary system-wide speed restrictions imposed last night. Without them, the “new normal” slow zones would add 60 minutes to a five-day commute, or more than a full work week over the course of a year.
”We can’t lead tomorrow if we settle for what’s good enough today,” Healey said in her January inaugural address. “To keep attracting the best workers in the world, our economy has to compete.”
It was the animating idea behind the set of tax reform proposals she filed last week and stumped for the following day to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
And she zeroed in on competitiveness again during an appearance at a meeting of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “The path to economic competitiveness goes straight through our businesses and our workforce. At this critical moment, we need to do more to give employers and workers the ability to grow and thrive,” Healey posted on Instagram.
When she mentions economic competitiveness, Healey invariably makes clear that the status quo isn’t cutting it. She surely has the T, among other things, in mind.
No one can blame her for the abysmal state of the regional transit system. Everyone expects her to get it back on track.
Subway system slowdown: The MBTA announced late Thursday night that it was imposing a 10 to 25 mile-per-hour speed restriction on its entire subway system following a recent state safety inspection of the Red Line between Ashmont and Savin Hill. The agency promised more information on Friday. Read more.
Local content requirement: The Prysmian Group seeks state assurances before building a cable manufacturing facility at Brayton Point in Somerset to serve the emerging offshore wind industry. The company urged state officials to establish local content requirements for wind farms, which may raise legal issues. Read more.
New normal at T: The MBTA is leaning toward a “new normal” of lower ridership, a stance that is stirring criticism from Jim Rooney, the president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Read more.
Cape bridge funds: President Biden includes partial funding for replacement of the two bridges to Cape Cod in his federal budget. Read more.
“Major milestone:” The MBTA checks off one item on its Federal Transit Administration safety list by getting ancient work trains on the Green Line up and running. Getting new work trains will take at least 18 months. Read more.
Pumped storage: Karl Meyer reveals the dirty truth about the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, which he says stores electricity in the form of water but at a high cost in terms of energy use and environmental harm to the Connecticut River. Read more.
Juicy audit: Republican activist Ed Lyons says Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s proposed audit of the Legislature is following a script right out of Hollywood. But, he asks, is it dangerous? Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Maura Healey refuses to hand over documents sought by WBUR on the grounds that the information relates to events before she took office. The governor’s office is not subject to the public records law, but Healey has promised to be more transparent than her predecessors. (WBUR)
Four former foster children are suing the state, social workers, and their former foster parents over years of abuse they say occurred in their Oxford foster home. (Boston Globe)
Drinks-to-go will go to conference committee. The Senate Ways and Means Committee’s supplemental budget, passed Thursday, did not include cocktails-to-go, unlike the House supplemental budget bill that would extend the option for another year. (WBZ News Radio)
Yet another Boston initiative that would need state legislative approval to take effect: Two city councilors are pushing a measure that would increase the number of non-transferable liquor licenses made available each year in 10 zip codes across the city that have less bustling restaurant scenes. (Boston Herald)
Advocates are urging the state to take control of four Western Mass. nursing homes that are slated to shut down this spring. (Boston Globe)
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu criticizes hospitals for filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services for forcing them to accept behavioral health patients who can’t find a placement. Sununu says hospitals should be working to address the problem, not filing lawsuits. (Eagle-Tribune)
General Motors is offering buyouts to most of its salaried workforce in the United States in a bid to trim costs by $2 billion as it transitions to electric vehicles. (Associated Press)
The Massachusetts state lottery director is worried about the impact of online sports betting on lottery sales. Unlike the new sportsbook, the lottery is not allowed to offer online options in Massachusetts. (MassLive)
Six online sports betting apps were approved to launch Friday, even as the Gaming Commission and Massachusetts Attorney General’s office considered changes to protect young people from the flood of advertising. (NBC 10 Boston)
Bay State College, the state’s only for-profit, four-year school, is facing eviction after failing to pay its rent. (WBUR)
Tanglewood sells tickets to its summer concert series in person, attracting a long line of people who preferred the in-person service (even if it took three hours) to waiting in internet queues. (Berkshire Eagle)
President Biden’s budget proposal includes $350 million to replace the two bridges to Cape Cod, but the money is far from a sure-thing. (Boston Globe)
Melissa Hoffer, the state’s new climate chief, is out to make climate action a part of every facet of state government. (Boston Globe)
Cape Cod’s fiber optic network is expanding in Hyannis and Bourne, connecting them to the miles of fiber optic broadband services that have spread across the Cape and Islands since 2009. (Cape Cod Times)
Prosecutors add more federal fraud charges to the indictment of one-time Boston racial justice activist Monica Cannon-Grant and her husband Clark Grant. (Boston Globe)
Gannett has eliminated 59 percent of its workforce in four years. (Nieman Journalism Lab)