The MBTA spends more than twice as much maintaining its buses as comparable transit agencies and would save at least $250 million over six years by running its bus maintenance operation as efficiently as other agencies, according a new study that the T disputed.
A report by the Pioneer Institute, which is expected to be released Wednesday, claims the MBTA is overstaffed and overpays its employees when compared to other transit agencies.
The institute is a privately funded research organization that describes itself as independent and non-partisan.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said: “Anyone with knowledge of the T's financial situation is well aware that competitive wages are not the cause of the MBTA’s structural deficit. Over next five years, maintenance costs on aging vehicles and infrastructure will grow 3.8 times faster than wages and benefits at the MBTA.”
Pesaturo said the MBTA’s employee count this spring was 5,918, down from 6,350 in fiscal 2008, and said the T reduced overtime wages in fiscal 2012 to $28.2 million from nearly $31 million in fiscal 2011.
The group released statistics Wednesday that claim to back up its assertion that the T is inefficient. According to Pioneer Institute:
"It’s also a fact that road and operating conditions vary greatly, meaning some transit systems' buses require a higher level of maintenance than others. Work rules, job classifications and duties also differ from one agency to another, making it very difficult to offer an accurate 'apples to apples' comparison.
"One thing is certain, however: The MBTA has successfully managed its limited staff and resources to achieve maximum benefits."
He went on to call the report "misleading" and said the MBTA’s hourly wage rates for bus machinists are also consistent with those of other major transit systems. For instance, he said, San Francisco machinists are paid $36 per hour, while MBTA machinists pull in $34 per hour. San Jose pays their machinists $38, he said, and New York pays them $31.
Pesaturo also addressed the matter of alleged overstaffing: "The MBTA has reduced headcount by more than 400 people over the past five years."
The full report is available on the institute's website.