TRANSPORTATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS MEETS WITH 40 MEMBERS OF HOUSE AND SENATE TO DISCUSS FINDINGS OF LATEST “KEEPING ON TRACK” REPORT AND THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF MBTA
LEADING TRANSPORTATION ADVOCACY GROUP GIVES UPDATES DURING MBTA CAUCUS MEETING
Boston, MA, February 25, 2015 – At a MBTA Caucus Meeting yesterday hosted by chairs Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), and Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and MASSPIRG, members of the statewide coalition, Transportation for Massachusetts, updated lawmakers on the current state of the MBTA’s finances. Speaking to more than 40 members of the House and Senate, along with dozens of aides and staff from other offices, the presenters discussed the findings of their latest report, Keeping on Track: Our Second Progress Report on Reforming and Funding Transportation Since Passage of the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Act of 2013 and the history of the MBTA’s financial challenges.
Rafael Mares, senior attorney at CLF, highlighted that failed revenue and expense projections underlying a 2000 law passed to fund the MBTA resulted in underfunding of the transit agency over the past 15 years. He said, “The MBTA was forced to defer maintenance to balance its budget, which is the root cause of the MBTA’s failure to deliver reliable service during the successive storms that have battered the state.” Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts, added, “Transportation that fails us costs us. A great city like Boston needs and deserves great public transportation. Our economy depends on it.”
The report itself — the second in a series tracking the implementation of the Transportation Finance Act of 2013 — finds that some important transportation improvements have been made across the state in the last year, although it may take time to for Massachusetts to see the full benefits. However, the amount of revenue raised in the 2013 funding bill is still not sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s ongoing and future transportation needs or to support the state’s economy.
The speakers reported that legislators should expect the gap between revenues and expenses to continue to widen in the coming years.
– The sales tax dedicated to the MBTA has generated over $1 billion less revenue than projected since 2002. At the same time, fuel and energy costs have increased more than anticipated. This has created years of structural deficits.
– Today, the MBTA carries a total of $5 billion in debt service, with almost one-third of this being debt the state gave to the MBTA in 2000. This has resulted in the MBTA being the most indebted transit system in the nation. Over one-fifth of the MBTA’s budget is dedicated to debt payments each year.
– The MBTA has approximate $3 billion backlog in repairs. Every year repairs are deferred ends up increasing the cost of maintenance. Without new revenues, it’s not possible for the MBTA to adequately prepare itself to provide reliable service.
– The 2013 Transportation Finance Act provided new funding for the MBTA, Regional Transit Authorities, and roads and bridges, but only provided about half the new resources needed to bring the state’s transportation system into a state of good repair.
– The need for reliable transportation continues to grow. In the next five years, between 100,000 and 300,000 riders will join today’s 1.3 million daily users of the MBTA.
Transportation for Massachusetts is a diverse coalition of Bay State organizations working together to create safe, convenient, and affordable transportation choices for everyone in Massachusetts. Our 47 members have expertise in transportation, affordable housing, social justice, public health, the environment, planning and smart growth.