About Us

MBTA gets mostly passing grades in advocate report card

March 12, 2019

The MBTA is getting mostly passing grades on achieving its own goals, but the agency may struggle to meet major milestones in the future.

That’s the outlook from a coalition that includes the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents the communities served by the T. The three groups formed a unique partnership last year to issue an annual report card, judging the T’s progress against the goals the agency put on paper as part of a “strategic plan” in 2017.

The coalition issued the first update Wednesday, finding that the T has achieved most of those key objectives or is making progress to meet them. They range from big-picture efforts like installing a new fare collection system and vastly improving the bus system, to less public initiatives like installing better technology to chart projects.

But, the report found, the agency has failed to meet deadlines on other goals, like developing a clear plan to make its infrastructure more resilient against climate change or updating its plan for improving accessibility for riders with disabilities.

The groups also say that the T has made progress on such longer-term goals as better aligning costs and expenses or vastly improving repair spending — but that the agency may have a hard time fully realizing those objectives.

For example, Chamber president James Rooney said that to achieve the long-term goal of fully repairing the system by 2032, the T will need to boost spending significantly in the coming years. He’s not convinced the state has a clear plan or enough funding to do so.

“It does highlight that some element of financial planning for the T and the broader transportation systems of the Commonwealth are necessary,” Rooney said.

He also added that the T is considering a number of initiatives — including boosting commuter rail frequency or shifting to electric buses — that could add even more costs.

Rooney credited the Baker administration with reforming several agency functions and controlling spending but said the time has come to talk about raising new funding for transportation. That perspective mirrors another business group, A Better City, which recently issued a report arguing the overall system will be underfunded by billions of dollars in the next decade.

While state transportation officials have contested that projection, some members of the MBTA’s oversight board have begun calling for the state to find new sources of transportation revenue to help fund the T.

Governor Charlie Baker, however, has said the focus for now should remain on raising MBTA fares, though he is also interested in exploring new fees based on transportation-related fuel distribution.

In a statement, MBTA general manager Steve Poftak said the report card “independently affirms much of the progress the MBTA has made since 2015,” but added that it “does point to areas where the T could improve.

Read this article at BostonGlobe.com.