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MBTA ‘values’ — really

Which “values” do you most prize in the people who run the MBTA?

The commitment to making the trains and buses run on time, safely, efficiently and at a reasonable cost to passengers?

Or the willingness to overlook cost at a nearly-bankrupt agency for the “greater good” – say, the cause of global warming?

Well, it looks like T board member Elizabeth Levin is with the polar bears.

“We may be broke, but I hope we have our values,” Levin said at a meeting of a board subcommittee last week, the State House News Service reported, during a discussion about the agency’s new $120 million energy contract. “I’m not excited about spending $120 million and separating from that discussion spending what I consider a relatively small amount for creating a safe environment for everyone near the T.”

Yes, it’s always a “relatively small amount.” In this case, Levin and other board members are asking for a new study of the transit system’s carbon emissions – and a full list of renewable energy options – before signing off on the contract to provide power to the T through 2016.

The T, of course, is drowning in debt – $8 billion in long-term debt, to be specific. And it is confronting a $160 million shortfall in its budget next year alone.

The contract already includes renewable energy options, according to acting general manager Jonathan Davis, and the T is taking other steps to reduce its energy costs. Two wind turbines are in the pipeline (using federal stimulus dollars) and the T is exploring solar, too.

As drafted, it is expected to save the agency $6 million by taking advantage of current, lower energy rates – savings that could mitigate the impact of that massive operating shortfall.

We’re sure T riders would see the value in that.