Proposed cuts to commuter rail service

I just read this article from the Globe on proposed cuts to weekend commuter rail service, the Ride, and privatizing MBTA garages:

Seems like cutting service isn’t the same as “fixing.” Of course it saves money, but it no longer accomplishes its goal. The goal of making it cheaper to run the MBTA shouldn’t trump the goal of actually running a useful public service.

What if we dedicated funds and effort to reducing the enormous debt carried by the MBTA, removing the costs of servicing that debt and avoiding the costs of compounding interest over time? That seems like a solid long-term investment.

Also, why does a public service need to make money?

Response from Will

Hi Aaron,

Of course, service cuts always raise big concerns.

But there are no easy answers. The state already pays all the debt service costs of the T and roughly half of the operating costs! It is an urban myth that the T is being crushed by a debt burden. No one expects the T to make money and it doesn’t — last I looked there was not a single route in the system that was profitable. See generally this thread for more background on the T’s finances.

Of course, we politicians are always for more service to our own districts, but I actually think we are part of the problem — we prevent the T from making hard decisions about where best to concentrate its resources.

I am not endorsing the service cuts — we have to go through a public conversation and evaluate the choices. At the same time, I’m unwilling to cut that conversation off before it starts: The MBTA needs to focus on its core services and make them as good possible. That may mean shedding less heavily used services.

One reply on “Proposed cuts to commuter rail service”

  1. Couldn’t a solution be utilization of express buses on the weekend? If ridership on some lines on weekends is down to a single car, a bus following the same route should be able to accommodate the level of ridership. More frequent buses, perhaps replicating the weekday schedule, could even increase weekend ridership. The staffing and equipment costs for operating this weekend express bus service should be far less than the current infrequent weekend rail service.

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