Statement: MBTA Service Plan Changes Urging the FMCB to Establish Three Principles During the Forging Ahead Process

WRITTEN BY TOM RYAN, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government and Community Affairs

A Better City extends its thanks to the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) for opening up a process for determining the best path forward for the T to provide safe, adequate, and equitable transit service during the COVID-19 pandemic; support the future return to the workplace; and tackle challenging budget projections. A Better City requests the FMCB to establish three principles during the Forging Ahead process.
First: The MBTA Should Pause for Three Months Before Voting on Transit Service Reductions that Impact FY22. This schedule would allow for clarity to emerge from the federal government on additional federal relief legislation that should include another round of transit funding. A three month pause would also give the state legislature time to finish their work in the current legislative session. In the interim, the MBTA should continue to implement strategic redeployment of resources and transit service that best meet current demand and allow the T to quickly redeploy services this spring and fall to support the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.
Second: There Should Not Be Any Permanent Cuts or Transit Service Changes With Long-Term Impacts. The MBTA must avoid transit service cuts that will harm Massachusetts’ economic recovery and weaken the Commonwealth’s ability to meet increased ridership as workers return to the office. Results from a recent A Better City employee survey indicate that (1) steady increases in workers returning to workplace could begin as early as next spring and summer, and (2) commuters would like to return to the same mode they used prior to the pandemic. Implementation of cuts at the time when more riders will need transit service is simply to wrong approach. It is imperative that robust transit service is available in FY22 to effectively to respond to increased commuters and workforce, avoid roadway congestion, and address equity and environmental goals. This includes ensuring the T retains the highly skilled and specialized transit professionals it relies on to maintain and run service across all modes that can take upwards of 18 months to replace and be fully operational.
Third: The Safety and Integrity of Our System Must Come First.  Even with the challenges, the MBTA faces to its operating budget, we cannot dismiss the capital infrastructure needs of the transit system. The MBTA must move forward, full force, to address the State of Good Repair (SGR) backlog and sustain progress to create a safe, reliable, modern system. Furthermore, the MBTA needs to advance important, unfunded capital projects in the likely event additional federal infrastructure funds become available under the Biden Administration. The FMCB should call for a focused, accelerated effort to move capital projects through the design phase so projects are ready to receive federal construction funds and we are not caught flat-footed when federal funding becomes available. 

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