Rep. Dan Winslow held forth in the comments a while back about MBTA revenue/stabilization ideas. I appreciate the effort — good for a Republican (pat on the head). From stomv, a larger suite of ideas that come closer to addressing the problem:
Lots of ideas
none of which are a complete solution.
1. The state should take the $1.6B in debt back, or at least agree to make those payments. It’s not all of the MBTA’s debt, but it is the portion from the Big Dig.
2. 2.5% fare increase each and every year, rounded to the nearest nickle. Prop two and a half, MBTA style. [Tom Birmingham, Mr. Index, would approve — ed.]
3. Gas tax increase. Five cents. Three goes to local transit (MBTA or whatever regional is nearest to the city/town/county/whatev). One cent to local non-motorized transit — bike lanes and paths, multi use paths, better sidewalks with ADA access, etc. One cent to cities and towns for roads.
4. Move The Ride off of the MBTA books. The Ride isn’t mass transit — it’s paratransit. It’s important, and it’s a good service, and it should be kept, but it’s a specialized scheduled taxi service, which has very little to do with mass transit. Why should MBTA riders cross-subsidize it instead of all citizens of the Commonwealth? And on that note, it should be more carefully scrutinized, to ensure that those who need it have it but those who don’t [because their start, end, and intermediate stations are all ADA accessible, for example] should get regular service.
5. More revenue from convenience shops within MBTA property.
6. I don’t know what the current retirement package is, but make it reasonable for new hires. Don’t renege on current contracts, but make the retirement package for new hires appropriate, not like the 23 and out days of yore.
7. Get some capital improvement projects from state and feds to implement traffic signal prioritization (TSP). The idea is that a bus or street car shouldn’t get a red light so that 3 cars carrying 5 passengers between ‘em can turn left. How does this help with money? Two ways. By allowing buses and street cars which are behind schedule the opportunity to catch the green, they speed up and stay on schedule. That means less pay for overtime (lowering costs) and it means increased ridership because the T is more reliable (more revenue).
8. Let cities and towns bid on servicing MBTA stations — cleaning, trash removal, snow removal, that sort of thing. I think Dan Winslow suggested this, and it’s a great idea. Won’t save much, but could shave a little from the costs. Of course, oversight is just as important here as it is with a private contractor.
9. MBTA police. Use ‘em or lose ‘em. By use ‘em, I mean start driving around and writing tickets. Stopped halfway through an intersection on the Green Line? Ticket. Standing in a bus stop, even just to let your spouse out of the car? Ticket. Didn’t pay your fare? Ticket. Smoking on a platform? Ticket. Litter on MBTA property or on the train? Ticket. You bring in revenue, cut costs [like cleaning], and improve the quality of service for riders. That, or roll ‘em into the State Police and get them off the MBTA books.
10. Parking lots. Charge market rates, different for each lot. Charge enough so that there’s about a 5% vacancy rate, and feel free to charge different rates for different days, different times, etc. Maximize revenue and use of the lot.
11. Develop your land. For example, those parking lots — could they be office buildings? Perhaps a paved surface lot could become two floors of garage parking and an office building, so that there’s still parking for MBTA users and non-fare revenue coming in to help stabilize the T books.
12. Ask cities and towns for more. Not more money, per se. Tell ‘em which bus routes are marginal, and then tell the cities and towns what they could do to improve them. Move stops to the other side of the intersection, install a bench, whatever. Cities and towns have lots of influence over the small details on those bus routes, and those small details, when considered carefully, can shave minutes off of the length of the run or allow riders to wait more comfortably. Ask the cities and towns to take some ownership for making the experience better for their residents and guests.
13. Film Tax Credit, as per RyePower. A great idea.
14. The MBTA is the single largest electricity consumer in the Commonwealth. The MWRA has used federal grants to fund lots of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Heck, the MWRA has solar photovoltaic, wind, hydro, and biogas renewable generation facilities. The MBTA needs to get the state and feds to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the T — help cut into that massively large electric bill.
There’s 14 items. None are perfect, none are easy, and no one of ‘em will solve the long term problems.