D Day for the T
How will the monumental failure of the MBTA affect transit oriented development? Hard to say. But for sure, the problems have been building for decades and will require billions to solve.
This week—for the first time in a month—the entire MBTA system was running, although that didn't last long; some lines aren't on track today. The spate of snowstorms brought the T to its knees because of 40 years of deferred maintenance, antiquated rolling stock, and stations and parking garages in such disrepair that at least one has been condemned, says CC&F CEO Jay Doherty. He was Chairman of the Mass Business Roundtable Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that sought solutions to this problem two years ago.
There’ll be lots of excuses and fingers pointed at management, labor and expansion plans. And lots of calls for privatization. “That’s nonsense,” Jay says. Massachusetts has refused to pay to maintain and modernize the system. We should have hybrid cars and the latest technology. Instead, we have 40-year-old cars and tracks without heating elements, so the system can't function in cold weather. In ’12, his committee sought $1.2B/year just for capital repairs, but the T is only getting 33% to 40% of that, he says.
The region has the most robust economy it’s seen in 40 years, but we can't remain a world-class economy without a world-class transportation system, Jay says. In ’06, it was determined that the MBTA would need an extra $20B just to maintain its existing transit system. He also feels the mass transit system is often seen as a Boston issue, yet we're the heartbeat of the New England economy. Without improvements, companies will stop growing and relocating here.