Boston Globe: How to Fix the T

Leading transportation expert Charlie Chieppo, in an opinion piece published in the Boston Globe, argued that fixing the T will require reform, restraint, and money, and that “it will be far more difficult than it would have been had state leaders acted when the agency’s problems became apparent more than a decade ago.”

His article: How to fix the T: It won’t be easy, and it should have been done over a decade ago outlines that the MBTA owes nearly $9 billion in debt and interest and faces a $3 billion maintenance backlog. The T pays nearly as much in debt service as it collects in fare.

He argues that that the T should develop customer-focused metrics and regularly update its performance against these metrics.

“Performance goals in areas like on-time performance, percentage of operating costs covered by fare revenue, and a passenger comfort index based on variables like working heat and air conditioning and Wi-Fi availability, should be ambitious yet plausible given the condition of MBTA assets. Annual funding increases should be tied to achieving the goals, which should become more aggressive as the system gradually modernizes.”

“While underinvestment and expansion are at the heart of the MBTA’s problems, other issues require attention. According to a 2013 study by former state Inspector General Greg Sullivan, the T pays far more than it should to maintain its buses. Even though the agency’s chief procurement officer said that performing major bus overhauls in-house cost 50 percent more, the Commonwealth’s anti-privatization law prevented the work from being outsourced. That level of inefficiency can no longer be tolerated.”

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