THE PIONEER BLOG
How was your commute yesterday? Odds are, it wasn’t good. Forty-seven percent of February 5th’s peak-hour commuter rail trains (7:00 am to 9:00am and 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm) were late. Your chances of getting to work or home on time were about the same as the Patriots winning the toss and electing to defer. Monthly commuter rail passes range in price from $84.50 to $398.25. Since the cheapest ($84.50) serves region 1A (most of which is already served by MBTA buses and subways), commuters from further away are usually paying for a service they need. There is no subway or bus they can catch to work. Many don’t have the extra $70 it would take for a one-way Uber/Lyft/taxi […]
Government transparency has already suffered two major blows in 2019. First, a special legislative commission charged with making recommendations on the legislature’s and governor’s exemptions from public records law failed to reach consensus on a long-awaited report on improvements.> Second, Mr. Transparency himself, State Comptroller Tom Shack, the driver behind CTHRU, the state’s highly acclaimed spending transparency website, announced he was leaving state service. The recent state police overtime scandals came to light when journalists reviewed CTHRU. Historically, Massachusetts has ranked at or near rock bottom nationally in terms of open government, with one of the chief reasons being the legislature’s exemptions from open meeting and public records law. It’s time to change that and it will be up to the […]
One of the ways local governments raise revenue to fund public services is through fines and forfeitures. That includes everything from speeding tickets or fines for fishing without a license to property seized in a criminal investigation. The latter practice, also known as civil asset forfeiture, has come under fire from both conservative and liberal researchers for several reasons. Police often need minimal evidence to seize property, raising concerns about due process, and it is more difficult for low-income people to challenge an unjust seizure. On the whole, local governments in Massachusetts raised just over $99 million through all fines and forfeitures in 2016. The Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, estimated that in 2014, Massachusetts local governments raised […]
MBTA Station Leak Tracker
State comptroller isn’t a job that’s very familiar to the average Massachusetts resident, but during his tenure, Tom Shack has shown just how important and impactful the position can be. As he departs the office, he deserves kudos for his good work. Soon after his appointment in 2015, Tom recognized the need to improve state government transparency. Although providing a transparency site wasn’t a statutory responsibility of comptroller, he felt compelled to research solutions to provide the Commonwealth’s citizens with a state of the art, intuitive, and user-friendly platform to get more eyes on state data. In September 2016, CTHRU successfully debuted. It took just seven months to develop and cost far less to procure and maintain compared to its […]
The top 50 overtime earners among state employees averaged $99,114 in overtime pay during fiscal 2017. Of the top 50 the top earners, two work in the Department of Mental Health, two in the Department of Public Health, five in the Department of Transportation, 11 in the Department of Corrections and 30 are in the State Police Department, five of whom are part of the State Police Overtime Scandal. Also, 21 of the top 50 overtime earners made more in overtime pay than their regular salary. The spreadsheet below lists the 50 state employees who received the most overtime pay in 2017, downloaded from MassOpenBooks, a research tool offered by Pioneer Institute (an asterisk signifies involvement in the State Police […]
We are thrilled that the MBTA is moving forward to expand its corporate pass program (CPP) as recommended by Pioneer Institute in January. Pioneer believes the program has great potential to increase both ridership and revenue. The MBTA’s corporate pass program allows employees to purchase T passes through their employers with pre-tax dollars, which in turn reduces employee taxable income and employers’ payroll taxes. The program allows companies to subsidize passes for employees as a pre-tax benefit. The goal is to incentivize more people to use public transportation and improve the environment. Everybody wins. Under commuter benefit programs, employers can provide their employees with a tax-free transit subsidy and/or exclude from taxable wages a total of up to $260 monthly. These benefits can cut employee […]
We are pleased that former Pioneer Institute Research Director Steve Poftak has been named the next General Manager of the MBTA. While at Pioneer, Steve oversaw and directly authored a high-quality portfolio of research that spanned from transportation and infrastructure to pension and other state and local post-employment liabilities. Pioneer has long been committed to advancing excellent mobility options for all residents and visitors, including a wide range of public transit services. After the T melted down in reaction to the winter of 2015’s record snowfall, the Institute combined academic-quality research with efforts to educate the public on a series of timely reforms, starting with our proposal to create a Fiscal and Management Control Board and including changes to the T’s sick time policy, troubled pension […]
From the 1920s to 2014, Boston Harbor’s Long Island played an integral role in housing medical, rehabilitation and shelter facilities for the City of Boston. Specifically, a homeless shelter was opened on the island in 1928; an almshouse, addiction facility and a chronic disease hospital in 1941; plus several since-decommissioned World War II-era military installments. In 1950, a major step to improve access to the island, which had only been reachable by boat or ferry, was the $2 million construction of the Long Island viaduct. The project provided access to the Island via a bridge connected to neighboring Moon Island, which was connected to North Quincy by a causeway. However, in 2014, at the urging of MassDOT and following years […]
Pioneer has established the Roger Perry Internship Program to support college-age students who seek opportunities to enhance their educational experience with practical training in an energetic and creative public policy environment.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, a distinctly American tradition, let us enjoy the company of friends and family, and reflect on the many reasons we have to be grateful. Pioneer is thankful for your continued support and the amazing generosity that our community has shown the Institute. Your commitment to our mission makes it possible for us to advance ideas that elevate the public conversation and reforms that improve the quality of life for all residents of the Commonwealth. We wish you a happy Thanksgiving! Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution to support Pioneer.
November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War. America’s first engagement as a major global actor, the rise of German militarism and the Soviet Union, and the geographic boundaries of the Middle East, are only some of the reasons why World War I is often considered the most influential event of the 20th century. Please join Pioneer in honoring Veterans and Armistice Day, as we celebrate our nation’s shared past. Op-ed: On Veterans Day, Learning from ‘Black Jack’ Pershing by Jamie Gass “There’s no ‘glory’ in killing. There’s no ‘glory’ in maiming men,” said American six-star General John “Black Jack” Pershing, upon his 1924 retirement. “There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious […]
If you live in or commute to Boston, chances are you’ve driven through the Storrow Tunnel, the east-bound section of Storrow Drive where the lanes run underneath the westbound lanes for a half mile stretch in the area between Back Bay’s Clarendon Street and the Hatch Shell. Nearly 60,000 drivers travel through it every day, with few likely being aware that it has earned the worst “bridge sufficiency rating” of all operating bridges in the United States according to Travel & Leisure magazine. The “bridge sufficiency rating” is calculated using a formula defined by the Federal Highway Administration to serve as a prioritization tool to allocate federal funds, accounting for structural adequacy and safety, serviceability for modern use, and significance […]
An easy way to bond with fellow Bostonians is to complain about commuter rail. While it’s often regarded as unreliable, unexplainable, and unresponsive, a weakness in the transparency of MBTA performance data makes these claims no more than conjecture. True, the agency has made vast improvements in making its operation public in recent years, but there is more work to be done. While State of Service Reports will list miles between failure, ridership statistics, and causes for delays, the MBTA had not release a count of postponements; at least not until corporate social media accountability became the trend, and MBTA Commuter Rail got a Twitter profile. A short computer script downloaded all of the @MBTA_CR profile’s tweets. Their first one, […]
Massachusetts is commonly ranked one of the most expensive states in to live in, and recent housing market data indicates that isn’t likely to change any time soon. In June, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) reported that the median price for a single family home had reached $430,000, an all-time high. The condominium market looks similar, with median prices reaching an unprecedented $390,000 according to MAR and the Warren Group. One reason for the spike in home and condo prices is a lack of homes for sale. Specifically, the number of homes on the market declined 16% from last year. In Massachusetts, where a large portion of residents commute to Boston for work, the increase in home prices can […]