Between the T fare hikes, bicycle sharing, and the latest Big Dig woes, transportation has been in the news around Boston lately. And if you’re reading about any of those things in the Boston Globe, chances are Eric Moskowitz wrote the story. I asked Eric what it’s like to cover getting around our famously confusing and congested city.
You’re the transportation reporter for the Globe. What’s your favorite way of getting around the city?
Not by car, though I have some secret parking spots when I go to Celtics games. I used to say walking, because Boston’s human scale makes it such a great place for exploring on foot, even if you’ve lived here forever. It has highways and skyscrapers, sure, but it’s really a city of neighborhoods to wander, with buildings and details and quirks of everyday life that reveal themselves at eye level or just above. I thought about that the other day while writing about the restoration of the Hayden Building in the old Combat Zone, an area that has great architecture and rich history that you might not notice if you’re passing by quickly or encased in a car.
But now I say Hubway, which I enjoy even more than walking. The novelty still hasn’t worn off. I even wear a helmet when I ride, (mostly) stay off sidewalks, and stop for red lights. I’m supposed to be a dispassionate observer, but I can hardly wait for it to expand to Somerville, where I live.
You just finished a profile of Scott Brown and his family for the Sunday Globe. Did your opinion of him change in the course of researching the piece?
No, and that’s not to be glib but because I covered Brown in the last election and already had a pretty full sense of him. In this case I was exploring his relationship with his wife and daughters and the increased role they’re playing in the campaign. A cynic might call them props, softening his appearance when he criticizes Elizabeth Warren or supports something like the Blunt Amendment, to limit contraception coverage. And they do burnish his image, certainly, but their support and the closeness of the family is genuine. That dorky-dad humor — joking on national TV on election night that Ayla and Arianna were available — comes out in Brown whenever his family is around. And for years he was “Mr. Mom,” as a lawyer and legislator with flexible hours, while his wife was working in TV — making dinner, ironing clothes, getting the kids ready for school. The guy with the barn jacket and the truck is also the guy who played a mean game of Pretty Pretty Princess and learned to braid hair.
As everyone knows, newspapers are going through tough time. Do you worry about job security?
Often. But I love what I do, and I don’t really have a fallback plan. I’m hopeful that there will always be gainful employment for people who can report and tell stories, which is different from thinking that there always being an audience for good stories, which I’m more sure about.
Finally, what the most common transportation-related complaint you get when you tell people what you do for a living?
I get all kinds of complaints — about potholes, traffic, road projects that don’t finish on time — but really everybody has a complaint about the T: it’s falling apart, it doesn’t run late enough, it’s not extensive enough, the bus driver was rude to me, the conductor didn’t collect everybody’s fare. I don’t mean to sound like an apologist, but I’ve met a lot of great rank-and-file employees, and I’ve learned enough to know that the T’s problems are not waste, fraud, and abuse. Sure it could be more efficient. But it stacks up well against other transit systems on expense per rider and mile. Because of past legislative action, or inaction, though, it has too much debt and too little money, which sets it up for a perpetual pattern of budget crises. Either we’ll need new taxes to support it, or we should get used to more frequent fare increases and service cuts.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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