The Codcast: Aiello on the state of the T, new revenues

The head of the MBTA’s oversight board says the hoped-for transformation of the transit agency  has a long way to go yet.

“We’re still at the very beginning,” says Joseph Aiello, the chair of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. He says the collapse of the T during the winter of 2015 exposed the sorry state of the agency. “We were probably in as dark a hole as you can possibly be in,” he says.

But Aiello is not all gloom and doom. He says the agency is moving ahead with an overhaul of the Red and Orange lines that will double their capacity and committing to an annual maintenance schedule that will prevent the sort of deterioration of service that occurred the last time the two lines were upgraded. “We’ve got a pretty radical transformation going on,” he says.

The T is also considering a plan to double the capacity of the Green Line and exploring a reimagining of commuter rail, not to mention a host of other initiatives. Aiello is cautious about the need for more revenue. He says the agency has enough money for the next five years and adds that broad-based taxes are off the table.

But he acknowledges a revenue discussion might take place after the agency develops a clearer picture of its financial future beyond the next five years. He says the long-used estimate ($7.3 billion) of what the agency needs to bring its assets into a state of good repair is too low and cost estimates for the Green Line overhaul are still being developed. “We’ll probably understand where we are in terms of a long-term, 20-year spend by mid-year or late in the year,” Aiello says.

Aiello says he would like to see some signal from the Legislature on whether they will fund the overhaul of the Green Line.

To criticism that the T should just hire more people and speed up the agency’s transformation, Aiello says it’s not that simple. He says most of the needed improvements are disruptive to a system that needs to run even while it is being overhauled, so most work has to be done late at night or on weekends. He says the T doubled its construction productivity during overnight periods and is trying to triple it, but there is only so much time.

“We’d rather go slow and get it right rather than go fast and, as we say in East Boston, screw it up,” he says.

Aiello appeared with Carolyn Ryan of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Chris Dempsey of Transportation for Massachusetts at a CommonWealth Newsmakers event on November 27 that was condensed into this week’s Codcast.

Here are a few other highlights from the discussion:

— Aiello says he never met Gov. Charlie Baker before being appointed chair of the control board, but he is now a big fan. He credits Baker with saving the Green Line extension.

— He says funding for South Coast Rail is all set, but administration officials say they are still working on finding the money.

— Responding to a question from Ryan, Aiello said the T needs to rethink its pricing for commuter rail and possibly other services as well. But he says that debate — deciding whether to charge based on length of trip, time of day, or ability to pay — is likely to be divisive.

— “Driving is way too cheap,” says Dempsey, who called for putting a price on driving that would encourage people to get out of their cars or shift to off-peak times. He said putting a price on driving could also help fund some of the transit improvements Aiello mentioned.

BRUCE MOHL


MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Wollaston section of Quincy is the next focus of city redevelopment efforts. (Patriot Ledger)

Governing magazine spotlights Springfield’s financial turnaround from near-bankruptcy, saying the city’s in the best shape it’s been in for a generation.

Framingham school officials meet with area realtors to help turn around the image of the city’s schools. (Metrowest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A Globe editorial says former president George H.W. Bush leaves a mixed legacy of honorable public service in office — and divisive campaign tactics. Bush is remembered by residents and officials in Massachusetts, where he was born 94 years ago. (Boston Herald)

US Rep. Seth Moulton calls a tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offensive, saying it’s not true the challenges to Nancy Pelosi are coming from her right. (WGBH)

Leaders in Washington are considering a stopgap spending bill in order to avoid an acrimonious showdown that could result in a government shutdown during the week the capital will be mourning Bush’s death. (New York Times)

Ayanna Pressley may be a rookie congresswoman but she’s showing she is no DC novice. (Boston Globe)

A cast of political heavy hitters that included former vice president Joe Biden, former secretary of state John Kerry, and former governor Michael Dukakis gathered at a Back Bay church to remember political strategist John Marttila, who died last month at age 78. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

A coalition of progressives and good government groups are pushing for ranked choice voting in Massachusetts. (Salem News)

Phil Johnston, the former state Democratic Party chair, hails the new faces and voices to emerges from the 2018 election. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Margery Eagan chronicles just how complicit we are in supporting evil-doing tech behemoths with every click on Amazon, Facebook, and Google. (Boston Globe)

Three years after he bought EMC Corp., Michael Dell has been a virtual stranger in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Keri Rodrigues of Massachusetts Parents United urges the public to listen to families interested in a high-quality education for their children and not to the special interests trying to block a charter school expansion in New Bedford. (CommonWealth)

Worcester schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda proposes an ambitious new model for public-private partnerships with local businesses. (Telegram & Gazette)

More English language learners are turning to virtual charter schools. (WBUR)

Two lawsuits filed by female administrators in the Boston School Department allege gender pay disparities and a hostile work environment. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Steve Strongwater, the president and CEO of Atrius Health, says Massachusetts has a hospital readmissions problem. (CommonWealth)

The state is entering a new health care era as the Beth Israel-Lahey merger will test the effect of having two huge health care networks. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Western Massachusetts business leaders blast the state Department of Transportation for treating the area shabbily. They say Boston gets whatever it wants. (MassLive)

Unions representing some of the workers at the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority go on strike, prompting the authority to bring in replacement contractors. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Two commercial buildings in Lawrence owned by prominent developers have been disconnected from the city’s sewer system for decades and dumped raw sewage into the Merrimack River. (Eagle-Tribune)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Phil Satre, the chairman of the board of Wynn Resorts, makes his case for why the company should retain its casino license in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Baker administration is in a legal showdown with gun owners over the application of a federal law banning those with certain misdemeanor convictions from obtaining firearms licenses. (Boston Globe)

Former Suffolk DA Dan Conley slammed the ACLU lawsuit against the Boston Police Department over its gang database. (Boston Herald)

The federal corruption trial of Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia features well-known, high-powered lawyers on both the prosecution and defense side. (Herald News)

Worcester’s new police contract includes a framework for a test of body cameras. (Telegram & Gazette)