MBTA Operating Budget

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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MBTA Operating Budget

Postby johnpbarlow » Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:57 am

Article from Progressive Railroading Rail News: "MBTA balances operating budget for first time in a decade"

https://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/MBTA-balances-operating-budget-for-first-time-in-a-decade--55378

Q: in addition to advertising sales, real estate revenue (rent? sales?), and parking revenue, does "own-source revenue" include ticket proceeds?
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby chrisf » Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:18 am

What that article fails to mention is that $10 million of "revenue" is fines paid by Keolis for poor performance. I haven't seen an article that mentions how close the budget was, but odds are that if Keolis actually ran a decent, reliable commuter rail service for the T, there'd be a $10 million shortfall.

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transp ... -a-decade/
https://commonwealthmagazine.org/transp ... -problems/
Last edited by CRail on Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Unnecessary quote removed.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby NRGeep » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:42 am

The 1.7 billion big dig debt dumped on the MBTA in 2000 certainly didn't help...
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby rethcir » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:13 pm

Is the financing model still basically centered around MA sales tax? I would hate to see that the only time we can balance the budget is during the most gangbusters economy in quite some time.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby BandA » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:01 pm

I want to see incremental year-to-year progress, with service improvements, better on-time rate, longer MTBF, lower subsidy per passenger, increasing worker productivity, and costs closer to the national average. Also, fares should increase every year along with inflation or MBTA's costs. Need to transition to accurate distance-based fares, charge similar fares across modes, and charge rush-hour surcharge. Need to increase velocity of transit vehicles & fix congestion problems. Look at monthly discounts vis. congestion. Demand MassDOT Highway Division or cities pick up subsidies where buses run very slowly due to congestion.

Do more capital projects that reduce operating costs / TCO.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby BandA » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:09 pm

Perhaps shift some of the sales-tax subsidy to a payroll surcharge/office space real estate surcharge in transit-served areas.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby HenryAlan » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:29 am

BandA wrote:Perhaps shift some of the sales-tax subsidy to a payroll surcharge/office space real estate surcharge in transit-served areas.

That has the same flaw as sales tax based financing, which is that the revenue stream atrophies during a recession.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby BandA » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:15 pm

All sources of revenue atrophy during a recession, including the number of people riding going down. (We are at the point in the economic cycle where we should start planning for a recession.)

I was trying to suggest taxing the beneficiaries of public transit rather than people at random. Otherwise increase the cigarette tax and give it to the T.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby Disney Guy » Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:20 pm

RE the MBTA Big Dig debt.

This debt was incurred to build transit projects, not roads and vehicular tunnels.

So if the T did not have the "Big Dig" debt it (and commuter rail) would not have had some components we enjoy today. For example (let me pick something) imagine that we did not have the commuter rail line to Worcester. Imagine that at your favorite T station there were not as many parking spaces so you would have to get there earlier to get a space. The money would have gone instead to different T improvements. Like more bus service on the 111 line to Chelsea (featured in a recent news article). Like improved signals* on the Red and Orange line to let trains run closer together so there could be more train trips.

It's too late to make the T Big Dig debt vanish but let's dream on. Can we have both the Worcester commuter rail extension and more bus service on the 111 line? In addition, have both the bigger park and ride lots and the improved signals on the Red and Orange lines?

The answer to the questions immediately preceding can be controlled by the state legislature by adjusting just one number (one line item) in the state budget. Write in a bigger number and the answers to the preceding questions would be "yes" and "yes". Now they could be fiendish and put in a much smaller number. Then we would have to cut service on the 111 bus line (leaving still more people waiting at bus stops) and also discontinue service on the Worcester line, etc.

* One time a couple of years ago there was a delay on the Red Line southbound where there were trains sitting open doored at Central, Kendall, and Charles respectively. Improved signals would allow the train at Kendall to go halfway over the Longfellow Bridge to Charles and the train at Central to advance to Kendall. Yet another train could pull up halfway between Harvard and Central. It would take less time for the closer spaced trains to move to the next block respectively as the track ahead cleared thus reducing trip time and allow the same number of trains to make more trips and carry more people..
Last edited by Disney Guy on Thu Aug 23, 2018 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
(To the theater stage manager) Quit twiddling the knob and flickering the lights while the audience is entering and being seated. (To the subway motorman) Quit twiddling the knob and dinging the doors while passengers are getting off and others are waiting to board.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby HenryAlan » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:56 am

BandA wrote:All sources of revenue atrophy during a recession, including the number of people riding going down. (We are at the point in the economic cycle where we should start planning for a recession.)

I was trying to suggest taxing the beneficiaries of public transit rather than people at random. Otherwise increase the cigarette tax and give it to the T.

How do you define beneficiaries when considering that tax? If I ride on a train, that's one less car on the road, so the road user benefits from my decision to take the train. In fact, maybe that person benefits more by my being off the road than I do. So we both should get taxed, right?
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby BandA » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:43 pm

No, the major beneficiaries of the T system as it is set up are the owners of office & commercial space where people go, such as Kendall Square and Downtown Boston and "Boston Waterfront". What makes Kendall Square more valuable than the same amount of land in Waltham? It's mostly not being near to MIT, it's the subway access. Which is subsidized by the folks living in Waltham that are stuck in traffic on 128 trying to drive to Woburn to work. And almost all of the increase in property tax revenue in recent years has been in Boston, Cambridge and adjacent areas.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby bgl » Fri Aug 24, 2018 1:29 pm

BandA wrote:No, the major beneficiaries of the T system as it is set up are the owners of office & commercial space where people go, such as Kendall Square and Downtown Boston and "Boston Waterfront". What makes Kendall Square more valuable than the same amount of land in Waltham? It's mostly not being near to MIT, it's the subway access. Which is subsidized by the folks living in Waltham that are stuck in traffic on 128 trying to drive to Woburn to work.


No, the major beneficiary of the MBTA is the entire State of Massachusets as it enables our economy to exist, and those our income taxes to be distributed across the state. Our economy, and the City Of Boston/Cambridge/etc wouldn't exist without it. And, yes, Kendall's location near MIT plays a big part in the appeal of it, as does having subway access, as does having proximity to the main CoB of Boston, as does its proximity to Harvard, etc. Waltham also has the second highest ridership per day of any station on its like (~610), and I am sure everyone in Waltham commuting into Boston is glad that there isn't another million cars (from having no T) on the road as they try to get to work. The MBTA benefits everyone and should be funded as such - I don't complain about my taxes going outside of Greater Boston for roads or schools that I will never use.

BandA wrote: And almost all of the increase in property tax revenue in recent years has been in Boston, Cambridge and adjacent areas.


(veering off topic) Source on that? Just looking at YoY in Waltham, property values are up almost 10%.

As to the operations budget of the MBTA, it hasn't exactly not been balanced until this year - this is simply balanced now without the built in fudge money that the legislature usually kicks in. As for the $10 Million from Keolis - at a $2+ Billion dollar a year budget, thats pretty much a rounding error.
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Re: MBTA Operating Budget

Postby newpylong » Sat Aug 25, 2018 7:20 pm

Berkshire County (and likely Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden) would operate perfectly fine if from 128 over broke off and drifted into the North Atlantic.
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