Testimony to FMCB: Budget Update

Prepared by Tom Ryan, Senior Advisor on Policy, Government & Community Affairs

I want to thank the MBTA leadership and staff for their transparency in the presentations that will be shown today. There is a lot of good work happening at the MBTA and there is great potential for the future, particularly as it relates to the budget. I also want to thank the members of the FMCB for their hard work over the past 6 years. You have a proud record of success that justifies the continuation of a Control Board at the MBTA.

But today, there is one central question I want to ask before this FMCB expires and hopefully, a new board is established: "What do you want to do with the extra money that is now available at the MBTA?”

This is quite a different situation for the FMCB and the MBTA as an organization, and a unique opportunity for the FMCB to propel the T forward, and ensure your priorities are implemented as soon as possible.

Right now, there is approximately $200 Million that is being reserved for FY24, as a result of the federal transit relief funds. This number assumes fare collections will continue at the lowest projected scenario that the FMCB picked a few months ago. You are using Scenario 3, but if you had selected the midpoint option of Scenario 2, there will be $500 million still in reserve for FY24.

Today the presentations will show the 4th month in a row where fare collections exceed your budget estimates. And the economy is reopening sooner than we expected a few months ago. There is extra money to use now.
So what do you want to do with this extra money that is available to the MBTA?

A Better City is asking you to increase the amount set aside another $30 million into the Near-Term Transformational Investments Fund, and start the early design, engineering, and planning on capital investments that could be eligible for the Biden infrastructure bill. By advancing this early work, we can be more likely to receive major funding from the federal government.

There should be more urgency for the Red-Blue connector. Please consider accelerating the timeline and schedule for this project. This project would be good for the economy, good for MBTA operations, and good the essential workers who rely on the Blue line to get to MGH and deserve need better access and connectivity.
Another reason to expand the scope of the Transformational Investments Fund is what you will see today in the Unconstrained 10-year capital framework presentation. One slide says the MBTA needs “additional funds are necessary to achieve basic state of good repair and modernization goals”.

So let’s use this extra money to get federal support for the Red-Blue Connector, Regional Rail, and our resiliency infrastructure needs.

Please take another $25 -$30 million and put it to work in FY22. This approach can lead to approved federal grants that deliver hundreds of millions of dollars or even billion dollar grant awards. It is the best chance to improve the MBTA system in the next five years. The MBTA has identified a need, we have some extra money, and the federal government will soon be looking for valuable capital projects to fund.

This FMCB inherited a system in crisis six years ago and now you can decide how to spend this extra money that is planned to sit in reserve for over two years. Let’s expand the scope of this Transformational Investments fund to target federal grants and build a better T. This can be a great way to secure the proud legacy of this FMCB.

Thank you


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