MBTA misses capital spending mark
Also: A little zip; private-public partnership in Kendall
THE MBTA, WHICH has struggled to spend money to bring the system up to a state of good repair, will increase expenditures on capital projects to update the system but will still fall tens of millions short in meeting its target of $750 million.
Joanna Aalto, head of the T’s capital program oversight, said the agency has spent just under $500 million on buses, trains, subway cars, and other projects so far this year, and will dole out about another $175 million before the end of the year.
But while that’s an increase of 25-35 percent over last year, it still falls short of the agency’s goal to increase spending by nearly 60 percent.
She said the agency is on target to double its spending on revenue vehicles to about $310 million while awarding contracts for nonvehicle projects for another $300 million by the end of the year.
But though the agency is upping its spending on commuter rail, the board expressed its frustration to chief operating officer Jeffrey Gonneville about the continued efforts by T officials to prop up Keolis, the operator of the system.
Gonneville said Keolis canceled just one train last week because of a shortage of operational locomotives but told board members the company still only met its mandate of having 67 locomotives available each day. The company was one or two locomotives short each day except Friday, though Gonneville said as of Monday, they had 69 locomotives available for service.
But he also said coach availability continued to be an issue as a number remained out of service. Keolis was down 10 to 15 cars each day form the contractually mandated 370 coaches it is required to provide, he said.
Board member Steve Poftak said something needed to be done to get Keolis to live up to its obligations without T officials constantly bailing it out by assuming repair responsibilities.
“At some point we need to have a discussion on root causes,” said Poftak. “This cuts across coaches of all ages, all manufacturers.”
Board member Brian Lang said he was “irked” by Keolis’s approach to its responsibilities.
“It kind of irks me that we have a renowned rail operator, a multimillion corporation come in and make certain promises and we’re stuck fixing their mess,” he said. “There are now extra costs for the T we expected Keolis to be responsible for.”
Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve told board members the MBTA was entering into a pilot program with Zipcar to replace nonrevenue vehicles at the agency and cut its fleet of cars that officials drive.
Shortsleeve said beginning Monday, the T would begin renting 26 cars on an as-needed basis from the hourly rental company to gauge whether it would be a cost-effective way to reduce its 150-car fleet of cars that produce no money for the agency.
“If this works, we’ll be reducing the number of non-revenue vehicles we use,” he said.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AT KENDALLMBTA officials said they’ve reached an agreement with Cambridge and a private developer to start a fund that will be used for transportation improvements in the Kendall Square area and, if successful, potentially expand it to other growing areas along T routes.
Boston Properties, which has developed much of the Kendall Square area, has agreed to seed the fund with $6 million and projects will be determined by a group representing the MBTA, the city of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and representatives from local business groups. The fund would also seek contributions from other businesses that would benefit from improved transit options in the area.