Media Statement - MBTA General Manager

BOSTON, December 14, 2018 — TransitMatters looks forward to working with Steve Poftak in his new role as General Manager of the MBTA. Steve’s service on the FMCB and as an interim GM should enable him to hit the ground running as he tackles the job of providing excellent transit services to thousands of people every day. The task before us is challenging to say the least: to restore a legacy system and strategically modernize and expand it to serve the needs of a growing 21st century economy, and to do so in a way that ensures no T riders are left behind. More resources are needed to accomplish this task – resources to fund the necessary recruitment, hiring, training, and talent retention that can oversee the rebuilding of our system. We have a long road to the type of system our Commonwealth deserves, and in the meantime we need the resources to make what we have serviceable. It will take time, and net new revenue on the operating side, and a commitment to think and act creatively. As transit advocates, enthusiasts and users, we pledge to continue to offer General Manager Poftak and his team with our best thinking, and our willingness to collaborate on initiatives that help identify and implement new business models, new ways of delivering service, and better ways to keep T riders informed and engaged.

Media Statement - Executive Search & Board Changes

BOSTON, November 19, 2018 — At a recent meeting, the TransitMatters Board voted to take steps to position the organization for growth and maturation.  TransitMatters has seen its work and membership grow, particularly following publication of our ground-breaking Regional Rail report earlier this year and our successful collaboration with the MBTA, city of Boston and others to inaugurate the ongoing Early Morning and Overnight T bus services.  In order to ensure the ongoing strength and stability of the organization, the TransitMatters Board has sought and received funding to support hiring its first paid position – a Chief Operations Officer/Development Director.  The position was posted this week at transitmatters.org/careers

Acting President Josh Fairchild said “We hope that hiring a Chief Operations Officer and Development Director will enable us to bring additional structure to our work, and enhance our ability to be effective while expanding, empowering and encouraging what will continue to be a mainly volunteer member network that can identify and have the capacity to take on additional areas of focus.”

TransitMatters expects to announce selection of the new COO/DD in early 2019.  “We look forward to 2019 as a time when we can continue to grow our membership, collaborate with our advocacy partners, and make a positive impact on transit, Regional Rail and other forms of sustainable mobility in Metro Boston,” said Fairchild.

In a separate and unrelated development, the TransitMatters Board accepted the resignation of its President and co-founder, Marc Ebuña, who is stepping down to take a position in the private sector.  On behalf of the TransitMatters Board, Acting President Fairchild thanked Marc for his work and leadership on the TransitMatters team.

“Marc’s strong belief in sustainable mobility, and specifically his commitment to transit and mobility equity, helped form our mission and guide our work,” said Fairchild.  “His passion for these issues proved infectious, and TransitMatters has blossomed into an effective, credible organization driven by a talented group of like-minded volunteers.”

“The essential mission that drives our work remains the initial vision of our three co-founders, including myself, Marc, and Jeremy Mendelson: to improve transit in Metro Boston by offering new perspectives and utilizing a high level of critical analysis to advocate for plans and policies that promote convenient, effective, and equitable transportation for everyone.”

Media Statement - Blue Line Extension to Charles/MGH

We are shocked and dismayed by MassDOT’s treatment of the Blue Line’s future in the draft 2040 "Focus40" visioning plan.  We urge your reconsideration of a vision that utterly fails to respond to the mobility needs of our constituents, and fails also to provide the kind of access to jobs and opportunity that remains lacking on the one subway line that dies not connect to all the others.

The communities of East Boston, Winthrop and Revere are environmental justice communities and have been on record for many years advocating for an extension of the Blue Line to Charles/MGH. The mitigation plan for the CA/T project contained an obligation to build such a connector. We have been dismayed at the dropping of that commitment by the Patrick Administration, and have been urging the Baker Administration to reinstate the commitment and commit to fast track implementation. We were encouraged that a small amount of money was allocated to refresh some of the analysis for the project.

Our communities are among those most impacted by the operations of Logan Airport, whose annual passenger count exceeded 38 million in 2016. With recent compounded growth we can envision an airport that soon (within 5-7 years) will serve 50 million travelers.  That is good for the city and regional economy, but it has terrible impacts on traffic and pollution in our communities.  Today the traffic from that airport poisons our neighborhoods and makes our streets less safe. State transportation decision makers must plan for expanded and improved ways to get people to and from Logan Airport by public transportation.

Let us remind you that we are separated from the Boston economy by Boston Harbor. This natural barrier, compounded by the artificial barrier of heavy chronic traffic congestion, reduces access to jobs and opportunity for our people, and it critically reduces access to health care services at Mass General and Mass Eye and Ear hospitals. One important solution is better public transportation connectivity.

The Focus 40 document takes what little hope we have had for an enlightened public transportation outcome and offers a pedestrian connection that will be of little use or convenience to the residents, employers and employees of these communities. It is an idea without merit as a substitute for connecting the Red and Blue lines at Charles/MGH.

We find the Focus 40 document wanting in many respects when it comes to how to plan for and manage the Blue Line’s future.  It offers no tangible and viable solution to today’s real connectivity problem, and it fails to capture the essence of what will make the Blue Line serve the people of our neighborhoods. We call on you to get to work on extending the Blue Line to Charles/MGH now, as the one clear and unambiguous solution to connecting Blue Line subway riders to the rest of the system, and to the critical health care destinations at MGH and Mass Eye and Ear.

Media Statement - NSRL Feasibility Reassessment

The MBTA’s cost estimate for the North South Rail Link (NSRL), released yesterday, is the most recent in a series of estimates for this project.  Those estimates, from under $4 billion to over $20 billion, run the gamut of construction methods, infrastructure choices, and cost assumptions. These huge disparities underscore that cost estimates for major infrastructure projects have to be assessed based on their underlying assumptions.  TransitMatters believes that there are many reasons yesterday’s cost estimates are as large as they are, not least the assumptions and selective comparisons employed by the MBTA’s consultant. 

In our report on Regional Rail (excluding the NSRL) we estimated the cost range of systemwide electrification, high platforms to enable level boarding, and strategic capacity improvements at bottlenecks to be about $2 to 3 billion. We stand by that estimate and do not believe the electrification and rolling stock costs estimated in yesterday’s MBTA presentation are consistent with the most relevant and appropriate comparative examples of which we are aware.  

We read yesterday’s presentation to the Fiscal Management and Control Board as an affirmation of our view that South Station expansion (SSX) should not move forward – it is, by any measure, too little bang for way too much buck.  The MBTA’s consultant now estimates SSX will cost $4.7 billion, money that simply does not need to be spent in order to improve the functionality of existing tracks at South Station. There are other, much lower cost approaches to improving operations at South Station as we indicated in our Regional Rail report, and we will offer more a more detailed roadmap to doing that in a follow-up report we expect to release in the early fall.

With regard to NSRL itself, we stated in our report, and repeat here: “cost estimates for NSRL, undertaken by MassDOT consultants and independent third parties, significantly vary in range. These variances often are attributable to consultants not comparing like-to-like or using different methodologies. The reality is that actual costs can vary greatly depending on the quality and complexity of project designs, labor costs, and many other factors. Massachusetts has learned valuable lessons in cost containment through its recent Green Line Extension experience, and we would expect the same rigorous approach to providing maximum value for reasonable cost to apply here as well.”

TransitMatters continues to believe that the only route forward for the MBTA is to advance a transition to Regional Rail, an electrified intercity rail system with frequent service during the day. The Regional Rail model is critical. While not critical to implementing a Regional Rail system, the NSRL would be a highly useful enhancement providing the flexibility and connectivity to which many riders and potential riders would be drawn. We hope and expect that a candid and open-minded conversation on both of these initiatives will continue.

Without a commitment to a new Business Model for intercity rail, our region will continue to experience crippling traffic congestion and people will be deprived of the kind of access to jobs and opportunity that is necessary for a thriving economy and decent quality of life.  We look forward to collaborating with the MBTA and all stakeholders as we make Regional Rail a reality.

Codcast 101 - Salvucci takes new tack on West Station

Transportation guru Fred Salvucci said on the Codcast that the proposed West Station is needed now to deal with congestion in Kenmore Square and the Seaport District, not future congestion caused by Harvard University's creation of a new neighborhood in the Allston Landing area.

Salvucci’s position is sharply at odds with the views of the Baker administration, which believes current ridership projections for the station are too low to justify building West Station in the near future. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has said it would be wise to hold off on West Station until around 2040 when Harvard's development plans for the area are more fully formulated.

But Salvucci, who served 12 years as state transportation secretary under former governor Michael Dukakis and now teaches at MIT, said the transit connections offered by West Station are needed now to relieve existing congestion on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Codcast 100 - Salvucci traces decline of T to Weld administration

Fred Salvucci, one of the state’s most influential transportation officials, traces the decline of the MBTA to the early years of the administration of former governor William Weld.

Salvucci, who served 12 years as secretary of transportation under former governor Michael Dukakis and now teaches at MIT, said support for transit gained momentum after former governor Frank Sargent in the early 1970s brought a halt to new highway construction inside Route 128. Under Dukakis, Salvucci said, transportation officials turned their focus to extending the Red Line to Alewife, expanding the Orange Line, and burying the expressway through downtown, a project that came to be known as the Big Dig.

Throughout the 1980s, according to Salvucci, the MBTA built complicated transit projects and managed the system well. He said the successes were important. “If we had just succeeded in stopping bad things and not succeeded in getting some good things built, the bad things would have just come back,” Salvucci said during a Codcast hosted by Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters

 

Media Statement - NightBus Overnight Bus Service Pilot

TransitMatters is grateful for today’s action by the FMCB to advance the NightBus overnight bus service pilot. We began our advocacy for NightBus in early 2016, developing what we believed was a cost-effective response to the MBTA’s decision to end the prior late night service. Over time we were joined by dedicated municipal co-sponsors from Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Revere and Chelsea. Our collaboration with an equally committed MBTA staff has led to this milestone achievement. Overnight bus transit in Greater Boston, open to all but designed primarily around the transit needs of the late night and early morning workers, needed to keep our city running; in short: NightBus will respond to the economic realities of a city and region that functions on a 24/7 basis.

It has been a long road since we first brought our NightBus concept to the T in March 2016 and now we are close to seeing the tangible results of that effort. Our thanks are extended to the FMCB, MBTA staff, the City of Boston & our other municipal co-sponsors, and all who supported us. We look forward to continued collaboration to provide the transit service people need, want and deserve in a city and region that never stops working.