(UPDATE) MBTA fires back at claims it is overstaffed, overpaid

Red line Credit: Michael Day/Flickr
A new study claims the MBTA is overstaffed and overpays its staff. Credit: Michael Day/Flickr

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:

  • The average 2012 wage for a T bus maintenance employee was $78,550 including overtime, according to the Boston Herald’s Your Tax Dollars at Work transparency website. When fringe benefits are included, the average cost per full-time employee was $111,634.
  • The 10 highest paid machinists (mechanics) averaged $134,554; highest was $151,363.
  • The 10 highest paid painters averaged $86,486; highest was $101,199.
  • The 10 highest paid fuelers averaged $67,326; highest was $79,986.
  • The forepersons at the MBTA’s Charlestown and Fellsway maintenance and repair facilities earned $194,337 and $166,297 respectively in 2012.
  • By comparison, Gov. Deval Patrick earned $139,832.42, and Transportation Secretary Davey earned $152,076.94.

When asked for confirmation of the figures, Pesaturo released this statement: “Because each U.S. transit system has different methods for reporting information to the National Transit Database, the MBTA will need some time to analyze and assess the findings in this report. For example, a bus component failure reported by one agency may not be reported by another.

“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.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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