Entries by Scott Haller

Governor’s Plan to Cap Healthcare Provider Prices Misses the Mark

The Governor filed a number of healthcare market reform proposals along with his fiscal 2018 budget. One of his proposals aimed at reining in healthcare costs would impose limits, or capitate, the prices that insurance companies are allowed to pay providers (physicians and hospitals); it appears that the capitated prices serve as an indirect way […]

State Leadership Needed on Healthcare Price Transparency

Governor Baker’s recent healthcare proposals include provisions aimed at improving transparency in healthcare pricing. These policies imply that it is necessary to release more information in order to realize cost savings through healthcare price transparency measures, but current state laws already require the disclosure of price information upon request. Enforcing existing laws and creating incentives […]

Achieving a Sustainable and Transparent Healthcare System

As the Legislative Special Commission on Provider Price Variation wraps up its work (their potential report/recommendations are due in mid-March), PioneerHealth took this opportunity to provide our expertise and vision for moving towards a sustainable and transparent healthcare system. We envision a host of policy recommendations, enhanced enforcement of existing laws, and a statewide education […]

Will All-Electronic Tolling Save Money?

This blog explores the State’s switch to an all-electronic tolling system from a financial perspective. For a more general review of the changes to come please see our full report.   Before gantries for all electronic tolling began to appear on the Turnpike, state officials underscored numerous projected benefits associated with the change, including a […]

A Change in Toll Collection

For more information on Massachusetts’ new tolling system, read the full report.   Starting this fall, the Massachusetts Turnpike will become an open-toll road, meaning drivers will not have to stop or slow down to pay. Sensor arrays distributed along the length of the Turnpike will either read the driver’s E-ZPass transponder, automatically charging their tolling […]

What to expect with all-electronic tolling

This blog is a summary of the changes an all-electronic tolling system will bring to the state. For a more in-depth look at this topic, please read the full length report, Driving Innovation: Tolling and Transponders in Massachusetts. This fall the Massachusetts Turnpike will transition to an all-electronic tolling system (AETS), meaning drivers will not have […]

MBTA Transparency Is Now ‘Back on Track’

Today, the MBTA released its long-anticipated performance dashboard, bringing with it a sleek and interactive new website full of data metrics and detailed explanations of the data. Highlights and new features of the appropriately named mbtabackontrack.com include but are not limited to access to performance data from the prior day, ability to put data into […]

MBTA commuter rail should release on-time data from every station every day

As Pioneer has pointed out numerous times in the past, the MBTA has a habit of putting a positive public-relations spin on its shaky on-time performance record.  A Fox 25 investigative report takes the MBTA to task for massaging on-time data and keeping the public in the dark about its real record.  The report validates […]

MBTA Management Discussions: Where Did They Go?

The government works for the people. As with any employee, the employer (citizens of Massachusetts) would prefer that the employee admit its errors or problems outright, instead of trying to cover up the tracks. Apparently, the MBTA needed this principle explained in greater detail. The T’s independent auditor, KPMG, recently said that the T has […]

MBTA Performance Transparency: A Whole New Meaning to Deferred Maintenance

Governments need to adapt to the evolving needs of constituents, and in modern times, this increasingly becomes a matter of embracing technology. Examples of such progress include the ParkBoston App, eliminating the need for runs to feed the meter, and the cashless tolling system which is destined to relieve at least some of the Pike’s […]

Document Request Reveals Which Commuter Rail Trains Are Frequently Delayed

There is a unique relationship between the MBTA and its riders founded on a trust we give the authority in return for reliable transportation services. This is especially true for commuter rail passengers who pay more, expect more, and invest more in their commuting plans; whether it’s planning on dropping the kids off at school, […]

MBTA Scorecards: A Work in (Backwards) Progress?

Three weeks ago the MBTA announced the long-awaited return of comprehensive performance reports. These ‘weekly’ scorecards include on-time performance data for both the commuter rail and the T’s subway system, the first regularly posted data regarding the subway since 2014. The MBTA has expressed that these reports are a work-in-progress and that they will be […]

New MBTA Performance Reports: Work In Progress

This week, the MBTA began publishing new weekly performance reports which provide daily summaries of on-time performance for all subway lines (except the Green line), buses, and commuter rail lines. The reduction in quality compared to previous performance reports raises questions following terrible winter performance and the resulting diminished public confidence. The MBTA used to […]

T Has Failed to Hold Keolis to Commuter Rail Operating Contract

Over two-dozen rail operators initially expressed interest in the MBTA’s commuter rail contract, but only the incumbent, Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR), and a French newcomer, Keolis Commuter Services, submitted final bids. Keolis ended up winning the contract for at least the next 8 years with a $2.68 billion bid, making it the largest […]

There’s No Excuse for a ‘No-Excuses’ Contract With Excuses

Despite a “no-excuses” contract with Keolis Commuter Services for the commuter rail system, the MBTA has dropped the target on-time performance rate to 92% from its historical level of 95%. As Pioneer has shown before, this is a step in the wrong direction for the T. On-time performance is the most important metric for determining […]

Guest Opinion: Reinstate the SNAP work requirement

Massachusetts, once a national leader in welfare reform, needs to reinvigorate its commitment to helping recipients succeed in the workforce. A good first step would be for Governor Charlie Baker to instruct the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to reinstate the work component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food […]

The Pacheco Law wastes enough money to buy a brand new fleet of commuter rail locomotives

Pioneer released a report this morning demonstrating that the Pacheco Law (MGL Chapter 7, Sections 52-54) has cost the MBTA $450 million since 1997. That’s a big number, and big numbers can be pretty abstract. So let’s flesh it out to gain perspective on what the Pacheco Law’s restrictions really mean to MBTA riders. Last […]


Economies of scale are when a large operation can provide advantages by spreading fixed and overhead costs over a greater number of units sold, thereby reducing the per unit price. A simple concept, and one that proponents of national K-12 testing consortia made repeatedly. One of Pioneer’s favorite expressions of this economies of scale euphoria […]

MBTA Experiencing Severe Delays in Transparency

This winter the MBTA proved that it is capable of publishing complete and exhaustive performance and operation data, so why has it stopped? We still don’t know much about the extent of this winter’s detrimental effects to our bus and subway systems. In January, the MBTA dropped its monthly performance ScoreCards which covered all modes […]

Welfare Reform Momentum Must Not Be Stopped

The MBTA’s continuing struggles have dominated local news since February, preventing Governor Baker from pursuing issues of his choice, and those he campaigned on. With last summer’s welfare reform bill awaiting full implementation, Baker should consider shifting focus back onto reforming the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). Temporary Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) […]

Paid Sick Leave is No Remedy for Small Businesses

A recent Bank of America survey of Boston’s small business owners reflects growing confidence, even as 65 percent of respondents believe they are still recovering from the Great Recession. However, a ballot initiative passed last November threatens years of hard fought progress in Massachusetts’ small business economy. Small businesses are the bedrock of any thriving […]

Sunshine Must Return to MBTA This Spring

What began as a benign winter, accumulating only 2.9 inches before the New Year, quickly escalated into a 99.1 inch, two-month-long blizzard throughout January and February. As the snow thaws and sunshine finally returns to Boston’s streets we must take care to learn what we can about dealing with disastrous winter conditions. What have we […]

Commuter Parking Woes Highlight the MBTA’s Problem With Planning

Almost a decade after the completion of the Big Dig, the project aimed at solving significant transportation needs has become a legendary case study of mismanagement. What do we have to show for it? The tendrils of the megaproject continue to tie knots around the state’s infrastructure decisions.  Some of the transit projects that the […]

When Will Commuter Rail Return to Full Service?

March 30th can’t come soon enough for commuter rail riders, though Keolis may dread the date’s arrival. This is when the commuter rail operator promises to finally return to normal service levels, weeks after the blizzards of February. Keolis continues to face an uphill battle as their latest on-time performance statistics leave much to be […]

MBTA Commuter Rail Only System in Country in Decline Over the Last Decade

Earlier this month, Pioneer Institute reported on the MBTA commuter rail’s problem with timeliness. After further research, however, it is clear that this finding barely taps the surface of the long-brewing problems that the unpopular agency now faces. Thousands rely on the MBTA every day, and yet commuters continue to face commutes characterized by long, […]