Keller @ Large: Orange Line fiasco latest chapter in long litany of public sector failure
BOSTON – It made for quite a picture - the sight of a brand-new MBTA Orange Line car, one of $880 million dollars' worth of new subway stock we paid for, sidelined along Interstate 495 when the trailer hauling it became dislodged.
A fitting symbol for state efforts to fix the T that have turned into a slow-motion fiasco.
But the managerial incompetence that's been making an embarrassment of our transit system for years is far from the first case study in public-sector failure here.
COCOANUT GROVE FIRE
The Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942 was the deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Nearly 500 dead, hundreds more injured. The fire codes were lax, and even those went unenforced here. The place had twice its legal occupancy limit that night, and many of the exits were locked.
"The impacts of Cocoanut Grove are forever enshrined in the regulations, safety practices, innovations and knowledge that have already saved countless lives," noted Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at a commemoration of the tragedy last year.
When it comes to public corruption, it's hard to top the MBM scandal of the 1970s that sent two state senators to prison for their role in allowing faulty construction at the then-new UMass Boston campus. What was supposed to be a temple of learning for working-class people became a shoddy, dangerous disaster that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to fix.
THE BIG DIG
And it's hard to imagine a more costly catastrophe than the Big Dig. It ran billions over budget, and cost a local woman her life when shoddy ceiling work sent tons of debris plummeting to the pavement.
The MBTA's problems? Just the latest chapter in a long litany of public-sector failure.
Not everything government touches turns out this way of course. The accelerated bridge repair program is a good recent example of the state stepping up its game. And the bottom line is, every one of the debacles we've cited here also involved misconduct and malpractice by the private sector.
All the more reason why we need the public sector to do better.
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