A Step Closer to the First-Class Transit System Massachusetts Deserves

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This week, a Finance Control Board for the MBTA won the support of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the Mayor of Boston, and finally, yesterday, the Massachusetts State Senate. Make no mistake about it: There is more work to do to ensure that the control board will have the powers it needs to improve the MBTA.

This winter, as thousands of riders were stranded on MBTA platforms, Pioneer Institute was the first organization to articulate a reform plan for the state’s major public transit system, the centerpiece of which was a finance control board. Our team continues to do the most substantive probing into the T’s management issues, plumbing the murky depths of its union contract and binding arbitration, and revealing the millions of dollars in savings foregone as a result of the Pacheco Law.  We will keep pushing for the mass transit system that Massachusetts residents and our knowledge-driven economy deserve.

Read our most recent analysis below, and support us in this work.

WGBH News Commentary: Fixing The MBTA: What Some People Just Don’t Understand

By Jim Stergios

Jim Aloisi is in high dudgeon about the Monday Globe’s editorial (“Why the Globe is Wrong About MBTA Reform”) in support of the Governor’s MBTA reform. With his trademark flare, Aloisi frames his criticisms with a lively image about the trajectory of his breakfast.

The only thing he is regurgitating, though, are his past statements when he served as Governor Patrick’s Secretary of Transportation: Public transportation is great; the T is great; give the T more money. His piece reads as though a few people were inconvenienced this winter.  Last I remember 1.3 million riders were stranded on platforms in freezing conditions, the region shuttered for weeks on end.  Read more...

There Is Little Appeal to the Current Use of Binding Arbitration at the T
By Mary Connaughton and Greg Sullivan
Eliminating final and binding arbitration at the MBTA is key part of Governor Baker’s reform proposal.  His bill does not call for ending collective bargaining and arbitration at the T, but instead for applying the same collective bargaining/arbitration law that applies to other public employee unions at state agencies and municipalities, including at police and fire departments.
Read more…

Greg Sullivan’s Testimony in Support of House Bill 3347:
I want to focus on three specific components of the Governor’s proposal that I believe are necessary to solve the MBTA’s chronic fiscal and management problems: 1) putting an end to final and binding arbitration at the MBTA, the only public entity in Massachusetts whose collective bargaining agreements are not subject to approval by a governmental entity, by substituting in its place a collective bargaining system used elsewhere in state and municipal government in Massachusetts; 2) authorizing the creation of a finance control board to implement an intensive efficiency overhaul at the MBTA; and 3) waiving applicability of the Pacheco Law at the MBTA. Until these proposals are adopted, the MBTA will continue to be run, in effect, by arbitrators and union organizations, not by MBTA management, the legislature, or the Governor. Read more.

Charles Chieppo’s Testimony in Support of House Bill 3347:
For more than 15 years, I have written and spoken about the dire condition of the MBTA. But since the T’s collapse this winter, I have to say that even I am stunned at just how bad things are. I truly believe this is the last, best chance to save this authority, which is so critical to the economic well-being of our region. I would like to focus on three issues in my testimony: The urgent need for a fiscal and management control board, for the T to be released from provisions of the so-called Pacheco Law, and the troubling condition of the MBTA Retirement Fund. Read more.

Visit #FixTheT to learn about ways to get involved    

Latest posts:

Is Keolis Up to the Task?

by Scott Haller

New on-time performance figures released yesterday show that last week’s return to normality may have been the peak of a dangerously sinusoidal pattern, hinting at continuing management problems at Keolis.

Public Left in Dark on Carmen’s Union Contract

by Mary Connaughton

Because of the T’s runaway cost structure, one aspect of the Authority’s operations that interests us is its labor expenses.  The best way to begin to get a handle on labor costs is to analyze the MBTA board-approved contract with the Carmen, the largest of the T’s 28 unions.  So, back in September 2014, we submitted a public records request for a copy of the contract.  We were informed that the contract was not yet available as a public document.  

What if The Ride operated like the best big paratransit systems in the US?

by Greg Sullivan

OK, let’s cut straight to the answer.  If The Ride had operated as cost-efficiently as the ten most cost-efficient large-scale paratransit systems in FY2013, it would have saved between $48.2 million and $60.3 million in FY2013.

And What About the T’s Retirement Costs?

by Mary Connaughton

Pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) costs significantly impact the MBTA’s financial position.  There’s been much talk about the T’s retirement costs but relatively little about how those costs and their funding rank among other large transit systems.  The MBTA has not set assets aside to fund OPEB obligations and is underfunding its pension costs.

The MBTA Commuter Rail’s Cost Structure Is Off the Rails

Pioneer Institute’s ongoing analysis of the MBTA’s operations, finances, and performance aims to inform the public debate about the true problems plaguing the T and the most effective ways to improve the commuter experience for Massachusetts’ 1.2 million public transit system riders. Calls for more state funding ignore the system’s serious governance issues, including its misguided focus on expansion projects at the expense of its maintenance backlog.

Sunshine Must Return to MBTA This Spring

by Scott Haller

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.

Time to Fine Keolis

by Mary Connaughton

My train was on time this morning, no T-alerts popped into my email and, at long last, I enjoyed an express trip to Boston.  For that, I am delighted. Still, we can’t let the last couple of woeful months on the commuter rail melt away like the snow.

Commuter Parking Woes Highlight the MBTA’s Problem With Planning

by Scott Haller

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.

The MBTA’s Problem is Not Lack of Funding

by Greg Sullivan
By any reasonable measure – capital, operating, or both – the MBTA has not been cash starved.  And the residents of Massachusetts have paid far more to date, relative to those served by other like agencies, to ensure that the Authority has sufficient resources.