Say the name, MBTA aka Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and hear the sighs. Positive thinking has been replaced with resignation. We settle and acknowledge it is not a great system, but for many, it is the only way to travel.

Bicycles aren’t for everyone, cars need parking spaces, and we don’t want to repeat the grandparent’s stories about walking 20 miles in the snow to a one room schoolhouse. So we are stuck between that hard place and a rock.

But then again, we live in an era of “repurposing”; maybe we just need to take a step back and reassess. We can reframe reality and let the new narrative reveal itself to us.

The strength of the system has nothing to do with the ability to transport people. Rather, the system’s strength is in its ability to find money (aka generate income) by justifying contradictions. Think of the acronym MBTA as short hand for Multi Business Trans-Actions.

Check out the advertising in the train stations and on the trains. The advertising space goes to the highest bidder. One season, the trains are filled with advertising for services that deliver liquor to your home (on the up side there is always the possibility/hope that the number of drunk drivers and car accidents will decrease).

A season or two later, the trains and waiting platforms are plastered with (pun intended) posters promoting a treatment for alcohol and drug dependency.

The next round of advertising might be for science, school/family events, followed by ads recruiting kids for cool adventures, aka medical studies. It just takes my breath away just thinking about all that advertising in a relatively small, often cramped space holding a captive audience.


Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers… a lot. Her column now appears weekly on Oddball Magazine.