The T is a mess.
That was takeaway from a detailed report released Wednesday morning by a special panel organized by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The report recommends organizational and fiscal reforms to the MBTA and highlights problems of mismanagement and chronic worker absenteeism at the controversy-plagued agency.
The panel found the MBTA “is ineffective at managing work due to weak workplace practices and chronic absenteeism.”
Baker said the average T worker takes 57 days off per year, not counting holidays or weekends. That level of absenteeism, said the governor, is double the national average and leads to transit trips being cancelled.
The report was compiled by a special panel organized by Baker’s administration in the wake of a historic string of winter storms that caused consistent delays and cancellations to the T and commuter rail throughout February.
The panel is calling for doing away with the current board that oversees the T and replacing it with a five member body that would oversee the MBTA’s finances and management. The new board would include three members appointed by the governor, one member appointed by the Speaker of the House and one by the Senate President. The governor would appoint a chief administrative officer, under the panel’s recommendations, to lead the T. That person would report to the control board.
The panel, which consisted of local transportation and urban planning experts, is also pushing for the MBTA to increase self-generated revenue from fares, advertising and real estate.
The panel found the MBTA would be insolvent if not for continuing and increasing subsidies due to a severe imbalance between costs and revenue.
The T has not spent the capital funds available to it, according to the panel. Baker said the agency has left “$2 billion in the drawer the last five years.” He said the agency’s fiscal problems are unrelated to Big Dig debt.
The panel found that the MBTA struggles to get projects completed, is hampered by frequent leadership changes, vacancies and looming attrition, is not organized to operate as a customer-oriented business, lacks accountability and has a procurement and contract management process that is inefficient.
The agency should build a firewall between the operating and capital budgets and create one, five and 20 year plan for capital and operating budgets, according to the panel’s recommendations.
The state should also create a dedicated, state-funded capital program to modernize vehicles and infrastructure and pause construction spending for the system’s expansion, with the exception of federally funded projects, according to the panel.
The panel also recommended that the T needs to create customer-oriented performance management system, strengthen communications and reform the system’s routes, including bus routes.