Thursday, August 4, 2011

$8 Billion and rising

Well folks the T is broke. Well its probably not exactly what you think. No there is no signal problem on the B line, the orange line is not experiencing 15-20 min delays due to an earlier disabled train, and no your commuter rail train is not suddenly canceled because of a mechanical problem. This time the T is broke like OMG we need to win The Lottery broke.

If some of you haven't noticed yet the country is in a sort of recession. There has also been a lot of talk lately about debt. Theres the national debt, personal credit card debt, foreign debt, and of course student debt. There is also a new genre of debt that has been making some news lately, that being the MBTA's colossal debt. Which is estimated at well over $8 billion.

First I want to focus a little attention to how the MBTA racked up this insane number. First off the MBTA's Green Line is the oldest subway system in America. This means it racks up high amounts of maintenance costs. The rising debt also includes purchasing skyrocketing diesel fuel for locomotives and paying for the largest electric bill in Massachusetts. Wasteful spending is also to blame. The T purchases poorly made uniforms for its employees on an annual basis and they also have to pay out their insanely high pensions and benefits. Overall, there is truly not just one area at fault for this seemingly never ending debt. Even so the T needs to find a quick fix for this problem or its going to have them sinking faster than the Titanic.

Over the past six months the cash strapped T has been trying to find ways to reduce their multi million dollar budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012 along with reducing their overall debt. They also want to do this all while trying not to initiate a fare hike. Ambitious huh? Many ideas have come across the GM's table some of which might actually aid the T and some of which are just plain insane! One of the greatest ideas that Richard Davey and the T implemented over the past few months has definitely been Not only is the merch on the site awesome (I still need to buy the MBTA shower curtain for the apartment) but it is also expected to generate about $150,000 a year in revenue.

L.L. Bean wrapped #47 Bus
Another big venture for the T over the past few months has been in advertising. The T has literally been trying to sell space every where they can for ad's. They started with allowing companies to purchase ad space in wrap form. For example the L.L. Bean ad campaign, which promoted their free shipping offers. Then moved on to allow ad's basically every where! Even while getting scrutiny for it. They now have since added ads on, their trying to get them on the back of charlie cards, and also trying to get voice ads on buses.

The most interesting step for this massive attempt to quadruple advertising revenue came last month. When I first read about it I could not even believe that it was actually happening. The T was going to try and sell the naming rights to a few of their subway, commuter rail, and bus stations! The names of the stations would still be permanent but household names would just be sponsoring the station. For example, Scotch Tape station at Park St. Personally this is going a little far but I guess if it's going to help avoid a fare increase then I'm all for it.

Hopefully over the course of this year and next the T will find more options to help save them some money even if it is just a few grand. I just don't want it to get to the point where they start to cut corners with equipment. But with Rich Davey on board i'm sure things will be just fine! Hopefully by this time next year I can report back and say that the MBTA's debt is at $8 Billion and falling!


  1. Broke, and also often broken. I'd actually be all for a small fare increase if it would improve service and keep the trains running. Looking back to the '70s and '80s when the railroads were dying, I'd rather not rely on railroads in those conditions to get me to and from work.

  2. Your description of the T's debt does not include the $3.3 billion transferred from the State in 2000 and the legal commitments of $1.8 billion that were required by law by the Big Dig.


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