Note on MBTA Funding

Several commenters on my recent budget post expressed support for increased MBTA funding. I completely agree! I identified increased MBTA funding as my top budget priority in this cycle.

The Senate budget does include strong operating support for the MBTA — very slightly below the Governor’s budget and significantly above last year’s level. The House did even more for operating support and I hope that we are able to approach the House operating support level in the final conference agreement. I do believe that the MBTA can benefit from the higher level of support. The table below compares individual operating line items.

MBTA Operating Support Line Items ($ millions)

FY25 Senate Draft FY25 House BudgetFY25 Governor Budget FY24
Final Budget
Sales Tax Transfer $1,465.0$1,465.0$1,465.4$1,463.5 
1595-6369: Transportation Fund Transfer $314.0 $315.0$314.0$187.0
1596-2405: Low-Income Fare Relief $23.0$20.0$45.0 $5.0 
1596-2408: Ferries $7.5 $5.0 $0.0 $5.7 
1596-2440 Transit Academy $0.0 $40.0 $0.0 $0.0 
1596-2427: Workforce & Safety Reserve Fund $0.0$65.0 $0.0$20.0 
Operating Total$1,809.5$1,910.0$1,824.4$1681.2

The state budget does include some incidental capital appropriations for the T, which are shown in the table below. I hope that we are able to also raise incidental capital spending in the final conference report.

MBTA Incidental Capital Support Line Items
($ millions)

FY25 Senate Draft FY25 House BudgetFY25 Governor
Budget 
FY24
Final Budget
1596-2404: Capital Investments $0.0$75.0$0.0 $180.8 
1596-2504: Commuter Rail Infrastructure Investments $24.5 $0.0 $0.0 $0.0 
1596-2441 Resilient Rides Capital Program $0.0 $35.0 $0.0 $0.0 
Incidental Capital Total$24.5$110.0$0.0$180.8

It is important to recognize that the amounts above are a fraction of the T’s capital spending, most of which comes from the federal government and from state bonding (previously authorized by the legislature in bond bills). The T’s total capital budget has increased dramatically in recent years and runs between $1.5 and $2.0 Billion. See the MBTA’s capital 2025-29 plan.

The big picture on T funding is that by the end of the budget process, we will be in pretty good shape for the coming fiscal year. Staffing will continue to go up and service will continue to improve. The big challenge comes in Fiscal Year 2026 when the T’s reserves will be depleted and over $0.5 billion will need to be infused into its revenue base. The need for additional funds is driven in part by the failure of ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels — this is a problem which affects most major transit authorities. Transportation leaders in the administration and the legislature see this “fiscal cliff” coming and are starting to discuss options.

For more discussion of the T’s financial condition, please see the MBTA Board, Audit and Finance Subcommittee meeting of May 9 and associated materials.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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7 Comments

  1. Thank you.
    We all want to see the “T” succeed.
    I would like to see monitoring and goals and objectives out in place for quarterly review.This will determine if our funding is working and being utilized properly.
    We have (finally) excellent leadership at the top.We need it to trickle down through the system as many people with expertise have retired and took their 25 years of knowledge with them.
    We need to review the retirement system as well ,many who retire are young, get another government job creating a second pension.
    I do not blame them.They are simply working within the system we currently have.It needs to be addressed to retain expertise.
    Let’s get outside the box and become smarter about how we handle these issues once and for all.
    We need a system we can all be proud of.

    1. I too enjoy the media’s showcasing of general manager Eng. I like him. He is a breath of fresh air. It is beyond my skill set to analyze to what extent success and the perception of success is due to his leadership skills and to what extent it is the assorted circumstances, such as: Covid, funding, projects, strength of his backers in government and the degree to which they are playing nicely, &c, &c. He is certainly the whole package to make it work, when lesser men would not.

      I would hope that the Massachusetts press would tease-apart the factors of his success. I know people aren’t paying for the news and you get what you pay for and what we mostly get is a mouthpiece for state and commerce.

  2. We’re going to need more MBTA buses and trains to accommodate illegal aliens.
    Let’s hope the MBTA budget takes that into account. If not, make it even larger.
    Also, the thousands of units of housing being planned by law for MBTA communities such as Watertown & Belmont?
    Make sure enough units are reserved for illegal aliens and their children (along with more schools).

  3. Are we really still below the pre-pandemic level of MBTA ridership? I ask because from my perspective, riding from B.C. or Cleveland Circle to Downtown, fairs are usually not collected. I insist on tapping my card, because I tell the driver that I want to be counted. (I have a monthly senior pass.) However, most drivers do not question anyone who does not pay to ride and usually open all of the doors of the tram to allow people on without asking them to pay. I just don’t understand what data are being collected to indicate that ridership is currently below pre-pandemic levels. It might be true, but how do we know?

    1. For the first time since the pandemic I heard a 75 driver implore “please move towards the back of the bus to allow people on,” but that was a one-off and before the pandemic the fRed Line was tighter than shoulder to shoulder, now it is only just shoulder to shoulder.

      I have noticed at major stations since around the pandemic and maybe earlier the practice of regularly leaving a fare gate open. I haven’t seen that recently.

      I have noticed people sitting in priority seating studiously deepening their attention on their phones and laptops when I get on with my cane. Maybe include Chinese and other languages on the Priority Seating placards, but I think as a population we’ve become less moral and caring about people not in our group.

  4. So, the T is funded by: sales taxes, riders, federal funds and state bonds?

    What % of the federal funds come from taxes on business revenues, capital gains, earnings dividends and the whole gamut of profit that’s to some degree facilitated by the country’s infrastructure? And, what is the philosophy for and against that revenue stream increasing? (There are limits to the argument of capital flight as Boston, and Massachusetts must have some virtue? And, if not- who needs ‘em)

    As for the “fiscal cliff” I might suggest a riders’ strike and work out, but I’m not going to.

  5. In terms of MBTA fiscal responsibility, accountability and funding priorities:

    0. I LOVE the seat material!!!! You can tell of they are clean or dirty, wet or dry. They could be ever so slightly bucketed as the trains jerk mightily starting and stopping.
    1. The handicapped/Priority seating seats have a monitor overhead and tall people can’t sit up straight to say nothing of wearing a brimmed hat.

    2. The Orange Line was down over a month last year for new tracks, ballast, ties/eggs and the cars themselves are brand spankin’ new yet the ride is bumpy as all get out. And this is due in part because the wheels didn’t come round and won’t stay round?!

    3. The jump seats have points that cause soft tissue injury and if someone puts a limb to the side of one and someone sits down it can cause a fracture.
    4. I have seen old people fall attempting to lower an Orange Line jump-seat and sit down only to have it spring up while the train jerks to a start.

    5. The OL trains are a different height from the platforms.

    6. How many retrofits have CCP Rolling Stock cars required and will require?

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