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In addition to the commuter rail struggles, the T is trying to figure out what to do with its late-night service program, which it began in 2014 as an experiment under former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s MBTA plan.
In December, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB), established by Gov. Charlie Baker and the state legislature to oversee the reduction of the T’s massive debt, recommended that MBTA staff begin the process of ending the late-night service.
Proponents of late-night service argue that continuing the program would help Boston to establish something of a nightlife, which would stimulate economic growth in the city, and protect the travel options of people who have no other way to get around the city after hours.
“It’s not an issue of convenience, but an issue of safety,” said Logan Trupiano, a 19-year-old Suffolk University student, the Boston Globe reported in January. “I understand the MBTA needs to make cuts, but students of Boston rely on late-night service too much for it to be taken away.”
Thirty-five percent of the city is between the ages of 20 and 34, the highest concentration of this demographic of any major US city. Supporters said this demographic is an untapped goldmine for economic growth.
However, MBTA officials report the service comes at an extreme cost of nearly $13 lost per ride, robbing the transit system of up to $14 million a year.
Critics also argued that Boston’s current restaurant and bar laws prevent late-night transit service from stimulating the economy as much as supporters would like to believe, which they assert can be demonstrated by a recent system-wide decrease late-night ridership.
Ridership numbers have decreased by about 20 percent, from 16,000 a night to 13,000, according to MBTA assistant general manager Charles Planck.
In fact, the FMCB also cited low ridership as justification for ending the program.
The third major issue on the MBTA’s plate is that of the Green Line Extension Project.
The project, which would relocate Lechmere Station, the Green Line’s current terminus, and add 6 additional stations further into Somerville and Medford, has been on the MBTA’s official agenda since 1990, according to the project’s website.
It was long estimated to cost about $2 billion total, but the project has been in jeopardy of being axed by the state ever since August, when the total cost was revised to cost about $1 billion more.
A final decision on fare increases is expected from the FMCB on March 7, according to MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve.
Photo by Robert Smith