Public Control and the MBTA

Public Control and the MTA

Consequently, the BERY began to experience declining ridership. In addition to restrictions on revenues, the Boston Elevated Railway had been forced to carry increasing rentals on additional subways and tunnels as well as other fixed charges. The General Court of Massachusetts realizing that good transportation was essential to any community and that good transportation could not be furnished on a flat 5 cent fare passed the so-called Public Control Act (July 1, 1918) designed to provide public operation of mass transportation for fares at rates sufficient to meet all costs of furninshing that service. Five public trustees were appointed by the governor and assume control of the Railway. This Act also provided the BERY stockholders protection from financial loss and guaranteed to the community public transportation. Throughout the Depression and World War II BERY stockholders around the United States received a 6% dividend on their stock.

The Boston Elevated Railway existed under the Public Control Act until August 29, 1947. On that date, the Metropolitan Transit Authority came into being and absorbed the entire BERY system. The chief feature of the MTA was that it was created by the Legislature as a body politic, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth, after the purchase of all outstanding stock of the Boston Elevated Railway. The new Authority was limited to serving the citizens fo the original 14 cities and towns in Metropolitan Boston: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Revere, Somerville, and Watertown.

The MTA was initially operated by three trustees, appointed by the governor for two, four and six year terms and was supervised by an Advisory Board comprised of representatives from the 14 cities and towns. Under the MTA, the Boston transit network continued to expand. In 1957, the Legislature approved the Authority's plans for construction of a rapid transit line over the Newton Highlands Branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad. Boston and Albany had abandoned commuter rail operations on this line in May of 1958. The MTA aquired its title a month later. Service on the Highland Branch, using PCC trains, began on July 1, 1959 and is still in operation today, successfully carrying thousands of suburban residents to and from the core city. This Highland Branch was referred to as being the first of many "suburban breakthroughs".

During the late 1950's and early 1960's, the various transportation complexes in and around the greater Eastern Massachusetts metropolitan region were undergoing tremendous changes. The area's railroads were no longer interested in continuing to operate passenger services. Expressways and super highways were being built seemingly everywhere at a very rapid pace. Urban planners and various community leaders began to take note that additional highways could not be the answer to the worsening mass transit crisis. Already, cities were becoming clogged with far too many automobiles within their central business ditricts. How many more parking facilities could be built to take up far too much valuable urban spaces?

In Boston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority was not in a position to physically or logistically absorb the additional commuter railroad passenger crunch. Consequently, the railroads were annually subsidized to remain in the passenger carrying business. Moratoriums were put on future highway construction. Outlying cities and towns were fearful of MTA extensions into their areas because of the Authority's ever-increasing yearly deficits.

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