Just across the river, Patrick and Murray seem unreachable on mass transit

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick talk at a June groundbreaking ceremony for a CSX Transportation Intermodal Terminal. (Photo: Matt Bennett/Governor’s Office)

Gov. Deval Patrick is doing his legacy no favors in Cambridge. In talking over options to ease the scorched-earth combination of service cuts and fare hikes facing the city as a result of the MBTA’s immediate $161 million deficit, state Rep. Martha “Marty” Walz explained what help the governor had to offer the city and state:

“The governor has proposed no solutions at all,” Walz said during a special Wednesday meeting of the City Council. “I found that puzzling.”

As a leader of the legislature’s MBTA caucus, she said she approached Patrick to see if he wanted to weigh in on solutions for the shortfall and the devastating solutions that have so far been proposed by the transit agency. A Patrick aide said the Democratic governor had decreed it the legislature’s problem to grapple with because “‘we have other priorities’ — a judgment call with which I profoundly disagree,” she said.

As Walz recounts it, that’s likely either a symptom or an endorsement of Patrick’s announced intention to sit out a 2014 election. (And, while he’s the guy who tried to raise the gas tax three years ago, he was also the guy busted last year for taking an SUV to work at the start of “Car Free Week.”) It follows Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s bid to seize the old Grand Junction rail line and run commuter rail from Worcester to North Station through Cambridge, halting rush-hour traffic without even stopping in the city. As recently as August then-mayor David Maher had to remind Patrick and Murray of some electoral math: that Cambridge gave their administration its second-highest percentage of votes in any community in the state, and that the 82.1 percent of the vote they got in Cambridge (compared with 49 percent statewide) wasn’t so likely next time.

“I think it is time we ask the lieutenant governor to think ahead to the impact this could have in 2014. I will tell you I am sure a number of people in this room would be very, very reluctant to support a candidate who pushed this down the throats of local residents,” Maher said.

That Murray had the state buy the line from the CSX rail company in June 2010, sink $1.6 million in repairs into it and tried to push through the service before studying the need for it looks all the worse now that it’s widely known the MBTA faces red ink of $330 million over the next three fiscal years. Worse yet is that the purchase came a year after a report warning the state of the agency’s looming breakdown, and that when Murray’s ridership study came through, it was projected that his Grand Junction line would be serving some 300 people a day through 2035. He only gave up the plan — for now — in December.

It already seemed ill-advised. In the context of the mass transit crisis facing Cambridge, and the timing, it now seems shockingly so.

Despite being based only across the river in Boston, the administration doesn’t seem to understand mass transit or Cambridge much at all.

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