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Boston: The Jaywalking Capital of America?

If you see someone waiting for a walk signal at a Boston intersection, you know he or she is a tourist. The rest of us do a rapid-fire speed check of oncoming traffic and gauge the risk of crossing, walk signal or not. It doesn’t work that way in most other US cities where fines for jaywalking are steep. The jaywalking fine for Boston is laughably cheap—just $1. Even though Boston has fewer pedestrian fatalities than New York City, the fine does nothing to deter pedestrians from crossing whenever and wherever they want to. City (Most to least populous) Jaywalking Fine Pedestrian Fatalities in 2013 Fatality Rate per 100,000 People New York City $40-$100 178 2.12 Los Angeles $190-$250 76 […]

Transparency Needed for Massachusetts Rest Homes

Extended care facilities provide either temporary or permanent healthcare services for those unable to manage independently. The facilities provide a lower level of care than hospitals yet can be staffed with nurses and healthcare aides, with doctors available to make the rounds as needed. Deciding on the best facility, whether for oneself or a loved one, can be extremely stressful at an already challenging time of life. The public needs confidence that extended care providers are consistently held to high standards of performance. If a nursing home is Medicaid/Medicare certified in Massachusetts, it is required to undergo surveys by the state—essentially performance reviews and on-site inspections to make sure the facility is up par. These unannounced surveys are conducted by […]

Problems with Potholes in Boston

Boston has a pothole problem. Or, more accurately, Boston has a transparency problem regarding pothole repairs. Since the historic snowfalls last winter, potholes proliferated around town, endangering those walking, driving, or cycling the roads. The city is tasked with fixing each pothole quickly. Every pothole has an associated file on record, which, when filled and fixed, should be marked as “closed” by Boston public works officials. Citizens are encouraged to be part of the process and report potholes as they find them. The website and app CitizensConnect allows the public to snap a picture of a pothole they see (or other concerns) and report the location to city officials. The technology is designed to connect the city to its people […]

The Control Board Needs to Insist on Transparency with Keolis

On July 21, the special panel created to address failures at the MBTA met to discuss and revamp several of its management policies.  The fiscal and management control panel listened to multiple hours of findings by the Department of Transportation regarding the routine problems of the MBTA.  During the meeting, in referencing the $7.5 million in penalties collected from Keolis because of delayed trains, Frank DePaola, acting general manager of the MBTA, noted that the penalties would revert to Keolis, in part, to pay for an increase in the number of fare collectors on board the commuter trains. This is an emergency, and we all understand that the focus has to be on upgrading service now.  That means getting Keolis actually […]

How Top Suburban Schools Compare

Quality public schools drive both real estate development and student success. Many public schools in Massachusetts are widely regarded to have set high academic bars. There are pockets within the state, though, that cry out for much-needed improved schools. It’s interesting to take a look at the spending habits of school districts. Specifically looking at some of Massachusetts suburban high schools, MCAS results are a good indicator of how a public school is doing compared to its peers. The Pioneer website MassReportCards compiles pertinent information (including  MCAS information) and assigns a “grade” to public schools in Massachusetts based largely on standardized test (high school grades also consider dropout and college matriculation rates). Take Wayland as an example. From data collected […]

Elimination of Old “Honor Boxes” for MBTA Parking

As part of their latest efforts to modernize, the MBTA has recently replaced all “honor boxes” that commuters would use to pay for parking with their more technologically advanced PayByPhone, an app for smartphones. Reputed as archaic and time-consuming, honor boxes required commuters to fold dollar bills and insert them into small metal boxes in order to pay for their parking spot on a daily basis. The right change was needed to pay the $4-7 daily parking fee, and during the morning rush, the process could become frustrating and time-consuming. While PaybyPhone has been an option since 2008, the MBTA decided to completely switch over to the cashless system, which enables a commuter to either download the app and pay […]

The Supreme Court and the EPA

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was not allowed to impose regulations on the emissions of power plants. A close 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the “appropriate and necessary” finding as outlined by the EPA’s regulations did not consider costs at the outset of the process. In short, the court wanted greater transparency. At the heart of the issue is the push and pull between keeping government agencies honest with their reporting (including cost-benefit analysis), and the power of Congress that allows them to do what they deem is “appropriate and necessary”. This is crucial to the development of governmental agencies and the degree to which they can operate independent of Congressional approval. The case raises […]

Fed Up With Faulty Fare Collection: Part II

Fed Up With Faulty Fare Collection Part II: New Ways to Collect Fares  The problem Recently, we outlined the commuter rail’s fare collection woes. Oftentimes, conductors don’t collect fares or ask to see passes. For those with a monthly pass costing between $75 and $362, seeing others ride for free is troubling – to say the least. The issue is that Keolis, the commuter rail operator, lacks any meaningful incentive to collect fares. Since the company is penalized at only $500 per instance of improper fare collection, how can Keolis take the fines seriously enough to and evaluate and improve their policies? Meanwhile, the MBTA doesn’t have any way of knowing just how much money they are losing on “free” […]

Fed up with Faulty Fare Collection

The Problem: Angry Customers and Less Revenue Last Saturday was a busy day in the Hub. With the Boston Pride Parade and a Red Sox game both in full swing by midday, commuter rail lines were packed with people flowing into the city. Pioneer Institute learned that on at least one crowded Worcester/Framingham train, fares went uncollected. That means a free pass for much of the weekend crowd, who are less likely to hold monthly passes than daily commuters. Saturday’s lapse is not an isolated incident. In fact, inconsistent fare collection by conductors is a growing commuter rail complaint. For a daily commuter who pays between $75 and $362 for a monthly pass, it’s highly disturbing to see others ride […]

A Tale of Two Transparencies

Recently, we wrote about the redemption of Secretary of State William Galvin after a records request for communications between his office and the Office of the Attorney General revealed the frustrating brush-offs he had received from the previous two AGs. Shortly thereafter, we received a response to an identical request we had made to the AG’s office. Since both requests were asking for the same documents, the correspondence should have been identical; what was received sheds light on how each office handled the request. The AG’s office provided mostly their own letters to Secretary Galvin’s office and neglected to provide the responses or original referral letters from Secretary Galvin’s office. In comparison, Secretary Galvin’s office provided almost all correspondence between […]