Media

Press Release - Regional Rail Proof of Concept

TRANSITMATTERS RELEASES NEW “PROOF OF CONCEPT” REPORT TO ADVANCE REGIONAL RAIL VISION WITH PRACTICAL NEXT STEPS AND $3 BILLION SAVINGS

BOSTON, MA (September 12, 2019) – Today, TransitMatters hosted a launch event for its new report “Regional Rail Proof of Concept: How Modern Operating Practice Adds Capacity to the Current Commuter Rail Network”. The report is a follow up to last year’s Regional Rail report which laid out the vision for a fast, frequent, electrified intercity rail network. That report showed that through embracing world best practice Metro Boston could have a transformative rail network. The new report focuses on how relatively modest changes in both operations and track layout at South Station can have significant benefits to train capacity in the short-term.  

The new report questions the wisdom of the long-planned South Station Expansion (SSX) project as a wasteful $2-3 billion project with little transportation value. The report also calls into question the MBTA’s reliance on bi-level coaches with inefficient passenger flow. The report instead calls for operational changes first: regular “clockface scheduling”, quicker train turn times, and dedicated tracks, all of which also add to the passenger experience and increase capacity at terminal stations. The report also advocates for relatively modest changes to the track layout of the approach to South Station; these changes would allow for faster speeds in the station (up to 50% time savings in some cases) and allow for flexibility by allowing trains to reach all platforms. 

“We believe that Regional Rail has the potential to solve many of the Commonwealth’s biggest challenges- congestion, inequality, Gateway Cities reaching their full potential, housing availability, and climate change. We have to make smart decisions about what projects not to do and start taking steps towards achieving the service improvements necessary to respond to our economy and to rider needs”, said Jarred Johnson, COO of TransitMatters. “Today, we found an extra $3 billion for the Commonwealth to spend on making commuter service across Eastern Massachusetts better. 

The new TransitMatters report, which was authored by a dedicated team of volunteers, is the first in a series of follow-up reports that will focus on each Commuter Rail line, as well as topics like electrification. Today’s report will be available online at regionalrail.net. You can also watch a live stream of the event on the @TransitMatters Twitter account. The TransitMatters team also announced an upcoming press event focused on the second part of the report, “How to Provide Frequent, All-day Service on the Worcester Line”. This event will be hosted in conjunction with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Sept 17 at 2 PM at the Worcester Regional Chamber. 

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Media Statement - Recent Derailments

BOSTON, June 11, 2019 — Today’s Red Line derailment was the latest in a recent series of derailments and possibly related switch and signal failures on both the Red and Green Lines.  These incidents compromise public safety and are setbacks for those who seek a public transit system that is reliable, resilient and responsive to the needs of people throughout Metro Boston. The frequency and impact of these failures is causing a loss of confidence in the T and calls into question whether and how the MBTA and City of Boston are prepared to respond effectively to the immediate disruptive consequences of derailments and other similar events. TransitMatters is calling today for the FMCB to promptly address these issues by undertaking an expedited independent review of MBTA systems and operations and management protocols covering both the causes of these derailments and the approach to managing their immediate mobility impacts. We know that running a large, old and chronically underinvested transit system is a challenging job, but we cannot accept the service failures of the last few weeks as a new normal. These issues require a prompt forensic deep dive, a report to the public, and action for more funding by the legislature to target accelerated repair and modernization of the system.

For media inquiries, please email: info@transitmatters.org
Photo: James Fisher

Media Statement - Official 2019 Proposed Fare Increase Statement

Below are the comments we presented to the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board on March 4, 2019:

BOSTON, March 04, 2019 — The MBTA’s proposed 2019 fare increase does not meet any appropriate test for a fair, timely or necessary increase.

The MBTA has sought to justify this increase by pointing to an operating budget deficit. The FY20 deficit is a manufactured one, as the Board has chosen to shift state funding intended for operating costs to the capital account. While performing more repair work is laudable, this cost shifting is made necessary because of the T’s significantly underfunded capital program. If the MBTA’s capital program were fully funded there would be no need to shift operating funds to the capital account. We believe that state funds intended to pay for operating costs should be used for operating expenses, and that the T should develop a comprehensive plan to generate substantial net new revenue that will realistically satisfy its serious capital needs.

Apart from this budget-shifting device, the MBTA adheres to the view that raising fares on a regular two-year cycle is a virtuous discipline. This “eat your peas” approach to revenue generation ignores one important metric that ought to inform any request for a fare increase: performance. We know of few thriving enterprises that raise prices without corresponding performance improvements. While we acknowledge and appreciate the work this board and staff have done to reverse historic trends, performance has not met expectations, and much more must be done before we once again ask riders to bear the burden of a fare increase.

Moreover, fare policy cannot be approached on auto-pilot. Just because the MBTA can raise fares every two years doesn’t mean that it must do so. Decisions such as this ought to be carefully considered within a transparent framework informed by performance metrics and specific policy objectives, including equity, competitiveness and commitment to invest in strategic initiatives like Regional Rail and the Blue/Red connector.

We are convinced that raising fares without the prior commitment of the governor and legislature to raise TNC fees and the gas tax is bad policy. It is more than simply inequitable. It is fundamentally wrong- headed as a business plan as it exacerbates the public subsidy for vehicular travel and pushes more riders away from transit and rail and onto TNCs or private vehicles. This is bad policy, unsustainable and contrary to the Governor’s stated commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

TransitMatters also supports the other activists and civic leaders who are calling for a fare equity agenda that includes:

  • Ending discussion of distance-based bus and subway fares, which have been shown to be regressive, as more residents are being priced out of housing close to job centers.

  • Rezoning commuter rail fares so that all of Boston is included within Zone 1A and no municipality is split between multiple fare zones.

  • Ensuring that AFC 2.0 fare vending machines are conveniently and strategically located for the maximum convenience of all riders.

Fare policy can no longer be developed and implemented by the MBTA in a vacuum, or without reference to the overarching goal of increasing ridership by moving toward a more equitable, reliable and sustainable system.We understand the challenges and complexities of running a large transit and rail system that suffers from decades of chronic disinvestment.Establishing policies that do not put the transit and rail network at a competitive disadvantage in an era where attractive mobility choices are more plentiful than at any time in history, requires the Secretary, the FMCB and MBTA leadership to rise to the occasion as never before. We hope that they will view this proposed fare increase as ill-advised and ill-timed.


COVERAGE

Media Statement - Red-Blue Connector To Be Included in Focus40

BOSTON, February 4, 2019 — We are pleased that the Secretary and the FMCB have decided to revise the Focus40 planning and investment plan to include the Red and Blue Line connector. When completed, this short and affordable tunnel connecting Bowdoin and Charles MGH stations will finally complete Greater Boston’s legacy subway system and link some of the region’s most important destinations and job creators. It also will provide the MBTA with critical system redundancy during a period of renewal and repair when other elements of the subway network may be out of service.

TransitMatters sends its gratitude to the over 1,200 T riders and supporters who signed our petition, as well as the many state and local elected officials from across the region, including House Speaker DeLeo. Their strong support helped make this important decision happen.  They know that connecting the Red and Blue Lines is essential to the functionality of the entire subway system.  And we wholeheartedly agree with FMCB member Brian Lang, who today expressed his support for this project and urged his fellow members to approve funding to enable engineering to begin this calendar year.

The next step is making sure that this project is placed on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) when it’s revised in April.  Funding ought to be available to begin engineering and keep this initiative on track. Our work will not be done until we achieve a specific commitment to include this on the CIP and begin engineering before the end of this calendar year.

More info about the FMCB decision can be found here here: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/pollack-prioritizes-red-blue-rail-connector/

Media Statement - Proposed 2019 Fare Increase

BOSTON, January 28, 2019 — TransitMatters is disappointed that T officials are proposing an average fare increase of 6.3% to take effect in July, especially given that we are not close to either significantly improved service or the introduction of AFC 2.0.  The healthy skepticism expressed by several members of the Fiscal Management and Control Board ought to carry over to action that holds off on any fare hike until certain specific milestones have been met.

The FMCB should commit the T to certain fare policy changes, such as Zone 1A / Zone 1 equity, Gateway City discounts, and unlimited transfer windows, among other changes, ahead of any fare increase and the introduction of AFC 2.0.  We also think that the current fare increase discussion raises a larger question about the inherent inequity of how transportation modes are treated from the revenue side. Assuming this fare increase goes into effect, subway transit fares will have increased 40 cents since 2014, while the gas tax has remained unchanged (and actually decreased with inflation factored in). Our current approach to raising transportation revenues keeps each element of our mobility system in a silo, exacerbating inequities and encouraging more traffic congestion and modal inequality.  Any T fare increase ought to automatically trigger parallel increases in TNC fees and the gas tax.  That would be fair, sensible and forward-looking. The current approach is an injustice and unsustainable, both economically and environmentally. The Commonwealth’s policy cannot be encouraging people of means to either get into their personal automobile or to worsen congestion by opting for TNCs. For the sake of all our residents, we must start treating our transportation system as one system, and move the revenue levers in tandem. 

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.