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benveniste

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[personal profile] benveniste
The MBTA shut down all trains at 7pm yesterday.  There were no trains today and only a limited bus schedule.  For tomorrow, here's a rundown of what the MBTA is currently saying:

  • 70% of the regularly scheduled trips on the commuter Rail

  • Fewer cars and less frequent service on the Blue and Green lines

  • "Limited" Service on the Red and Orange lines

Users of the "T" and the taxpayers of Massachusetts are justifiably angry.  Current Governor Charlie Baker is a Republican. Dr. Beverly Scott, the CEO of the MBTA, is an appointee of his Democratic predecessor.  Add a strongly pro-Union 2nd-year Boston mayor to the mix and you have the ingredients of a truly ugly political battle.

The weather over the last three weeks has been unprecedented, but that's only exposed the long-standing problems.  So before taking sides in this troika, here are a few links and a few selected observations:

You can find an abbreviated report on the T's historical Income and Expenses here:

http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/About_the_T/Financials/SORE%20History%20FY15%20budget.xls

You can find a selection of T ridership statistics (aka The Blue Book) here:
http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/document_library/?search=Blue+Book

Looking at the spreadsheets and first and last year of Blue Books, between FY2007 and FY2014:

  • Ridership as measured by unlinked trips is up 5%

  • Total Operating Costs are up 46%

  • Wages are up 27%

  • Fringe Benefits are up 26%

  • Outsourced Expenses are up 78%

  • Percentage Revenue from fares has dropped from 35% to 33%

  • Unless it's hidden in the "Materials, Supplies, and Services" catch-all, depreciation is not included in determining deficits or surpluses.

So as the debates and blood-letting play out over the next few months and the claims and counterclaims fly, remember those links and figures.  Dr. Scott has only been on the job since 2012, so all three of the players inherited this mess.  Perhaps Massachusetts pols should spend less time on an Olympic-sized ego trips and more time managing the day-to-day operations of the Commonwealth.
Date: 2015-02-11 06:11 am (UTC)

ckd: A small blue foam shark sitting on a London Underground map (london underground)
From: [personal profile] ckd
The legislature is far more responsible for the continued starvation of the T than Baker/Scott/Walsh could ever be. Finneran (the felon), DiMasi (the currently incarcerated felon), and DeLeo (the "unindicted co-conspirator") can all take their share of the blame.

And starved it has been since the "Forward Funding" finance plan fell apart (after assuming that costs like health care and energy would either not grow or grow slowly).

See the 2009 review by the D'Allessandro panel, with such choice bits as:
Fuel and utility costs at the MBTA grew by a remarkable 122% from FY01 to FY08, far surpassing the 22% growth that the Finance Plan projected.
and
For FY10, over $3B worth of projects were identified by the MBTA as needed to address SGR [State of Good Repair] issues. Only 15 of those 201 projects totaling $203M were funded. In other words, all but 6% of what was requested to address SGR issues went unfunded.
Deferred maintenance. Yeah.

Or this:
For the FY10 budget cycle, there were 57 projects, totaling $590M, that scored a “10” on safety, the highest possible value for that criterion. However, only six of those projects, totaling $47.2M, were funded. In other words, $543M in safety-critical projects are NOT being funded.
(emphasis in original)
Date: 2015-02-11 01:58 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] benveniste.livejournal.com
CKD, over the 2007-2014 the price of diesel fuel rose by about 33%, which is less that the rise in overall operating costs or the rise in "Materials, Supplies and Services."

I don't think there's any doubt that MBTA hasn't spent enough money on infrastructure. But given how fast spending has risen over the last 8 years and that subsidy levels have kept pace with spending, I can't agree that the MBTA has been starved. I want to know who made the decisions on how all that money was spent and why.
Date: 2015-02-11 04:56 pm (UTC)

ckd: small blue foam shark (Default)
From: [personal profile] ckd
Unfortunately, the D'Allessandro report only goes through 2009 (with a look forward into 2010) and therefore doesn't cover the past few years...but the 2000-2009 period certainly laid the groundwork for the current situation.

As that report says:
Contrary to not trying, we found evidence that the MBTA did make some hard expense choices. Across-the-board cuts were routinely made to departmental budgets. Periodic layoffs and hiring freezes restrained the headcount. Individual managers took pride in eliminating inefficiencies and redundancies, while embracing a new organizational ethic of customer service. Yet in the end, they could not pare staff below the number needed to move hundreds of thousands of riders across hundreds of routes each workday. Add the complexity and cost of sustaining the system’s aging infrastructure, and it became evident that the cost inflation and savings assumptions in the Finance Plan were never tested against the daily grind.
I would be unsurprised to find that some of the cost growth in 2010-2014 was necessary "get it working again" repairs; remember the Harvard-Alewife track repair work? That's specifically called out in the report (p. 25) as an unfunded project which needed $80M in 2010 and didn't get it. It was done in 2011-2012, and probably cost a bit more than the 2010 budget because of that....
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