Statement on Joint Transportation Committee MBTA Redraft

June 23, 2015

Transportation for Massachusetts thanks the Joint Committee on Transportation for continuing the important process of MBTA reform initiated by Governor Baker, while maintaining vital funding for the MBTA and statewide transportation, preserving responsible fare increases for MBTA riders, and providing new budgeting tools for Regional Transit Authorities.  

The Committee’s redraft of the Governor’s MBTA bill preserves contract assistance for the MBTA, which was part of the 2013 Transportation Finance Act legislative framework; preserves General Fund transfers to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund to support statewide transportation needs, also part of the 2013 legislation; and maintains predictable and stable fare increases while keeping free or discounted T transfers.

The Committee’s redraft provides the Governor with a high degree of control over the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board through the MassDOT Board, which would include rider and municipal representation, and be chaired by the Secretary of Transportation.

We thank the Committee for honoring the legislature’s 2013 commitment to MBTA Contract Assistance and Commonwealth Transportation Fund transfers, which were part of the Transportation Finance Act framework.

  • The redraft does not include a reduction of $220 million in MBTA Contract Assistance, which is essential to maintaining service levels.
  • The bill does not eliminate over $500 million in General Fund transfers to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, which supports transportation investments all across Massachusetts.

The legislation’s title is about the MBTA, but it has significance for statewide public transportation.  The Committee’s redraft provides greater capital and operating budget flexibility for the state’s 15 Regional Transit Authorities.

  • Enterprise Funds provide RTAs with the incentive to generate own-source revenue for operations, without reducing state appropriations.
  • Capital projects may now be stretched over multiple fiscal years, which is a common sense reform.

As the Governor’s MBTA Special Panel stated, we need both reform and revenue.  We clearly need to invest in our transportation network to sustain economic growth and opportunity, and to support the Governor’s Winter Resiliency plan for the MBTA. Now is not the time to reduce transportation spending.

  • Reforming and improving management at the MBTA, and all transportation agencies is important to make them more transparent, responsive, accountable and efficient, which will help restore the confidence of the public and state leaders.
  • Investment and new revenue is essential to modernizing our transportation network, as the Governor’s Special Panel on the MBTA noted in its report, and has been long documented by many bipartisan boards and committees, elected leaders and the business community.

As this bill proceeds, the legislature should not retreat from its 2013 commitment to stable and predictable fare increases.

  • MBTA fare recovery rates are consistent with the industry and with Massachusetts’  regional transit authorities.
  • Increasing MBTA fares beyond the 5% biannual cap should only be considered in the context of a comprehensive revenue proposal, as part of a revision of fare structures, and should be tied to significantly improved service.
  • Before the 2013 legislation, MBTA riders were regularly faced with threatened service cuts and sharp fare increases, which the legislature successfully resolved and should not now revisit if we are to promote MBTA ridership.
  • Removing longstanding free and discounted transfers is also a matter of basic fairness, and would harm low-income riders.

We applaud the Governor’s commitment to creating a world-class public transportation system.  We thank the Committee for its hard work on the bill.  We urge passage by the House and Senate, preserving fare caps and maintaining needed revenue, while moving forward with reform and innovation.

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