APRIL FOOL'S DAY SATIRE UPDATE: Sadly, we won't be getting a donation of snow fighting equipment and the Governor seems to be committed to be more interested in leaning on gains to be had from operational efficiency rather than a combined invest-and-reform approach.
Spring has sprung today for transit as NYC MTA CEO Thomas Prendergast announced a small donation of snow fighting equipment and the Governor announced a commitment of $30 billion over 15 years to drastically upgrade the MBTA's infrastructure and equipment.
NYC's de-icer car, a retrofitted subway car from a series that has long since been retired, is just narrow and short enough to run on all MBTA heavy rail lines - Red, Blue, and Orange - to clear ice from the third rail.
'You'll need a diesel locomotive to be able to push the de-icer car, but...uhhh...my information is that you don't have one so we'll throw one in, too', said Prendergast to standing MBTA GM DePaola at South Station.
'I was very surprised', said DePaola. 'I woke up to consecutive calls from [Transportation Secretary] Stephanie Pollack and my secretary that I needed to make my way as fast as I could to South Station. They had just gotten word from the MTA that Prendergast had just left Penn Station on an Amtrak train with a special delivery.'
Landmark Capital Investment in Transit
Meanwhile at home in the Bay State, Governor Baker, Senate President Rosenberg, and House Speaker DeLeo jointly announced their 15-year, $30 billion plan to drastically increase investment in the T.
'We are fully committed to investment levels commensurate with the maintenance needs of the country's 4th largest transit system', said Baker. The plan was sparked by widespread outcry by Massachusetts residents for better transit and inspired by a recent crowd-funding effort to raise $30 billion for capital investment in the T. 'We ended up raising the money by getting donations from all the legislators at the State House and going door-to-door raising money with various businesses in our towns.'
The plan includes a veritable wish list of regional access and core upgrade projects:
- Commuter Rail Electrification
- North-South Rail Link
- Urban Ring - Silver Line to be fully upgraded to light rail
- Outer Urban Ring on Route 128
- 'Overground' network - frequent service on inner-core commuter rail segments, defined by the DMU plan released by MassDOT
- Green and Blue Line signal modernisation
- Power systems overhaul for all rapid transit lines
- 6 BRT routes
- Blue Line Extension to Lynn
- Red-Blue Connector
- Pay-off of all existing capital construction debt
Completion for most projects is slated to be within the next 10 years. The plan is to have frequencies of rush hour trains to be every 30 minutes on commuter rail, 10 minutes on 'Overground' services, 3 minutes on all rapid transit lines, and less than 2 minutes on light rail. The MBTA and MassDOT are also accelerating work with the transport departments of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Malden, Medford, Arlington, Watertown, Waltham, and Brookline to establish dedicated bus lanes or other infrastructure to improve bus travel times and ensure buses can establish frequencies to arrive every 5 mins during rush hour.
Paying off the T's debt will also eliminate over $400 million annual operating budget commitments and will allow the T to return to pre-austerity staffing levels.
'We'll now have the proper operating budget to give the people of the Boston metro the service they've expected of us for decades and that we have never had the investment to deliver on', said MBTA GM DePaola. 'This should brighten the day of many of our back office management, many of whom have been burdened with the work of three or more people for years as we've had to cut our budget by simply not back-filling positions as people left or retired.'
In addition to the budgetary breathing room, MassDOT has announced its partnership with several international development and property management companies to engage in accelerated development of multiple commuter rail lots and MBTA properties into mixed income housing, offices, and retail.
'Once and for all, we want to stop this practice of selling property for a one time cash infusion to make ends meet', said Secretary Pollack. 'We will be working with these neighbourhoods to add much-needed housing and valuable retail and office spaces to enrich the spaces around stations. We are capitalising on our vast properties to return even more revenue to reinvest in the system after we've caught up to the massive backlog of projects from decades of underinvestment.'
Regarding conservative concerns about excessive investment in the MBTA, the governor cited his understanding that operational efficiency can happen as we invest in the system. 'As my good friend Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone once said, "We can walk while we chew gum." I have confidence in the management I have in place at MassDOT and the T; we need to give these people the right resources to succeed.'