Musings on the Governor's Transportation Plan

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The title above is accurate — these are simply musings because there’s very little specific data available beyond the Governor’s speech and a few powerpoint slides on the You Move Massachusetts website. What really matters is what gets filed.

1) 19 cents is too much, too fast for me. But you might already know that.

2) I can’t believe that heavy rail expansion (including the South Coast Rail Link) gets funded before the MBTA’s State of Good Repair. This is exactly how we got into this mess — expanding the system without the means to maintain it. I understand the politics of the pledge to expand heavy rail, but I’m flabbergasted at the open disregard for what got us here in the first place.

3) Public-private partnerships — The Governor’s speech said he would “look to expand public-private partnerships” and the reform slide on the website calls for “authorizing EOT to enter into public-private partnerships”. I’m curious what this means — encouraging EOT to do PPPs under the existing procurement regime or revising the procurement regime.

The Senate proposal does a strong job on this topic — it revises the regime to allow a range of life-cycle delivery options. And the TFC report (see pg. 9) clearly envisions reform of the existing procurement process. If the Governor’s plan is actually “enacting all of the Transportation Finance Commission recommendations“, this will be an area worth watching carefully.

4) MBTA Benefit Reforms — These appear strong and similar to the Senate’s proposal. Its not clear whether this applies to existing employees or new employees.

5) In its most basic form (and without details), the governance structure seems solid. I would advocate doing a bit less since these restructurings can be difficult and suck up institutional energy.

6) I’m pleased to hear that an Office of Performance Management will be placed in EOT. Let’s hope it asks the hard questions and provides useful data for both the public and managers.

7) If we forward-fund the RTAs and add a new revenue stream of 1.5 cents of the gas tax ($40m per year according to the Admin, more like $48m by my way of figuring), what becomes of the current ~$60 million per year that funds the RTAs in arrears? Does that stay within transportation and does it stay at the RTAs?

If it stays at the RTAs, that’s a tremendous level of expansion. Just to give a frame of reference, the RTAs has ridership of 29 million passengers per year (as of 2003, the last year for which I have data) and the MBTA had ridership of over 370 million.

8) $20 million for rail projects in Western and Central Massachusetts. Perhaps this is freight-related, but $20 million doesn’t get you a lot of rail and there’s no commuter service in Western and Central Mass.

Much like the Senate, I look forward to seeing the bill as filed.