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4/9/2015



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Panel calls for sweeping leadership, budget changes at MBTA


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) could become bankrupt without enacting sweeping changes in leadership, budget planning and general workplace practices, according to a 50-page panel report released yesterday.

Commissioned by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, the report called out the agency for failures on several fronts, including an unsustainable operating budget. The state of Massachusetts has implicitly assumed responsibility for funding MBTA operating deficits, which the panel decried as an "unacceptable long-term situation."

The MBTA's financial losses are the result of increasing operating costs, stagnating revenue and fares below those of comparable transit systems, the report said.

"Massachusetts deserves a reliable, well-managed, cost effective transportation system, and this in-depth report offers a plan of action to responsibly pursue organizational and operational reforms to reach this goal," Baker said in a prepared statement.

To that end, the report recommended temporarily replacing the current Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board with a five-member Fiscal and Management Control Board for three to five years, with three members appointed by the governor. The new board would develop one-, five- and 20-year capital and operating plans, in addition to enforcing a barrier between the two types of budgets.

The panel also called for increasing and restructuring fares, reducing fare evasions, developing more partnerships, and increasing advertising in MBTA facilities to increase revenue.

Additionally, the report suggested that MBTA work to reduce employee absenteeism by fighting abuses of the Family and Medical Leave law, worker's compensation and other types of leave. Fifteen percent of all MBTA employees took at least one day of paid leave during the 2015 winter storm recovery, the report noted.



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