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The MBTA is a major part of our circulatory system. It pumps life throughout our neighborhoods, our cities, and our towns. It carries us back and forth to work, to school, to the hospital, to our parks, to our restaurants and theaters, to our main streets and shopping areas, and to our places of faith.

In short, the MBTA needs to be well managed, well operated, well maintained—and willing and able to learn from its mistakes. This past winter, the MBTA failed a major stress test.

Shutting down the MBTA, like we did during the worst of February’s winter storms, was equivalent to sending it on a trip to the ICU. Though the T is mostly back on its feet, the chronic conditions that put it in the ICU remain. Without intense rehabilitation and a new way of thinking, things will not improve. And why should they? If nothing changes, then nothing will change. It’s as simple as that.

The legislation that the Baker-Polito Administration has filed with the Legislature—An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA—was the direct result of the work done by the Special Panel to conduct an emergency diagnostic. Their diagnosis was clear: “Pervasive structural failure.”

Among the Panel’s discoveries (Read the full report):

  • The MBTA is losing money. It needs to focus on taking in more revenue than it is spending in operating costs.
  • The authority hasn’t been efficiently taking advantage of the funds available to it for capital projects, such as infrastructure construction and maintenance.
  • The MBTA is beset by workplace and product delivery inefficiencies.
  • The way the MBTA is run lacks leadership and organization. These areas must be strengthened to ensure the authority operates in a manner that is accountable, transparent, and customer focused.

The panel also did not mince their words on the price of inaction: “This Plan of Action will be difficult and require collective effort, but the alternative is far worse: continued spiraling costs, unmet maintenance needs, and an increasingly unreliable MBTA.”

We find ourselves today with an opportunity to avoid that alternative, and instead put the MBTA on a track that makes it a reliable, predictable, affordable public transportation system.

Click to view the full infographic.

Click to view the full infographic.

The bill before the House and Senate provides a full set of tools and instructions needed to move the MBTA forward:

  • Establishes a Fiscal Management Control Board to function as the board of the MBTA, with a Chief Administrator to oversee daily operation and finances, through 2018;
  • Reconstitutes the MassDOT Board to consist of 11 members, including a representative from an MBTA core community, an outer MBTA community, and a municipality served by a regional transit authority;
  • Introduces reporting and audit requirements;
  • Lifts procurement restrictions to tackle the under spending; and
  • Provides the MBTA unions with the same rights as other state employees, but not special interest privileges, among other workplace changes.

We owe the citizens of Massachusetts a first class public transit system. The MBTA fails that standard today and this proposal puts the system on a path to recovery. We look to the Legislature for swift action on these reforms as we all work to restore the public’s faith in the Commonwealth’s transit system.

Support the MBTA Reform Legislation to #fixtheT on Twitter

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